A gender gap? My surprising conclusion regarding the differences in male and female members of Congress’ communications about abortion

Upon the completion of my study regarding the differences between the manners in which male and female members of the 112th Congress discussed abortion, I was quite surprised by my most significant finding: there was not much to find.  According to my research, there was not a tremendous difference in the manners that men and women chose to adopt during their discussions of abortion in the 112th Congress.  I recognize that, due to time and resource-related limitations, my study was notably small and, consequently, cannot be relied upon to draw very solid conclusions.  Nonetheless, I did not expect to see such a blatant lack of any trend based on gender.

I have considered several possibilities as to why this finding—or lack thereof—emerged.  One potential cause might be the heavy focus that Congress affords to the economy: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate stood above 9 percent when the 112th Congress took office in January 2011 and did not fall below 8 percent until late the following year.  Had the economy been more robust, it stands to reason that members of both genders would not have felt such strong compulsions to make the economy the subject of most of their communications to the public.  This would have afforded abortion a greater chance of appearing in Congressional rhetoric.

Other possibilities I have considered concern members’ individual choices.  For example, perhaps women tend to consider abortion a more affecting subject than men do, due to their unique ability to have abortions.  It stands to reason that male members of Congress might recognize this possibility and, as a result, take special care to dedicate a substantial volume of their communications to the topic in order to avoid appearing unsympathetic to women’s concerns.

In order to draw more solid conclusions with respect to my research question, a much large study would need to be conducted.  It is possible that my speculations as to why no difference emerged are incorrect, or that my entire conclusion is faulty and there is a difference in the manners in which men and women in the 112th Congress communicated about abortion after all.  However, it is also possible that my limited study might impel one to hesitate before asserting that a wide “gender gap” separates male and female legislators with respect to their manners of communicating about abortion.

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