Gender and Public Opinion: Defense and Nuclear Issues in New Zealand

TitleGender and Public Opinion: Defense and Nuclear Issues in New Zealand
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsLamare, James W.
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Start Page285
Date Published08/1989

This article examines gender-based differences in the New Zealand public's view of defense and nuclear issues. During the last few years defense and nuclear concerns have become important political issues in New Zealand. Indeed, in 1984 the New Zealand government banned nuclear capable warships, almost all of which are American, from the country's ports. Public opinion about these matters is divided along gender lines. As has been discovered in other research, New Zealand women are more likely than men to either not respond to survey questions about foreign policy issues or, if they do answer, to express a pacific viewpoint on these issues. Age also affects nuclear and defense opinion. Age combined with gender has a dramatic impact of opinion differentiation: young New Zealand women are substantially more pacific than their older male compatriots. A linkage between these attitudes and behavioral preferences is also discussed. Through path analysis it is shown that gender does affect voting intention. The effect, however is indirect. It is mediated through a series of interrelated attitudinal clusters. Women are more anxious about the prospects and destructiveness of war. This perspective may well be a product of gender-related socialization experiences. This general anxiety shapes attitudes about the New Zealand government's ban on nuclear ships. Views toward the ban influence feelings about the relationship between New Zealand and the US which became strained after the controversy precipitated by the ban. These feelings of strained friendship, in turn, influence voting preference. Hence gender-based opinion differences appear to affect behavioral intentions, at least in New Zealand.

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