Sex Isn't Gender: Rethinking Concepts and Measurements in the Study of Public Opinion

Lay Summary 

This paper, published in the journal Political Behavior and available (for free) here:, outlines the difficulty of traditional survey research which assesses the "gender gap" in political attitudes and vote choice based on whether voters are male or female. A lot of academic literature points to the problem with confusing "sex" with "gender" as the two concepts, although related, are not the same. In this paper we test some alternative survey measures of "gender" in order to determine whether a) the traditional measure of sex is adequate; and b) whether we can gain any additional insights into voters' attitudes by looking at a pure "gender" measure instead.

We find that there is indeed a difference between sex and gender, and that voters' preferences are more nuanced than previously established. Put simply, by using a traditional "sex" measure in place of gender, we do not learn as much about voters and their attitudes. We call for more research in order to develop a better measure of "gender" in surveys.

Political Science
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Political Behaviour
Political Science
Industry Sectors 
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
Start date 
27 Jan 2017