A Voter Leaves a Polling Station on November 4, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)Brett M. Kavanaugh's confirmation once again showed that deep polarization, as one observer said,deeply embedded in the current American DNA, "But his confirmation did that gender gaps to get even wider? And the confirmation has the eroding Confidence of the public in the Supreme Courtespecially among female voters?
Given that the vast majority of victims of sexual assault are women and the vast majority of those accused of sexual misconduct are men, one can expect Kavanaugh's affirmation to exacerbate the gender gap.
Of course, gender ideologies are not simply and uniformly shared between the sexes. Believing in what it means to be a "woman" or "man" is shaped by religion, party affiliation, region, social group, and many other factors. Many women responded to the hearings confirming that they feared that their sons would be wrongfully charged with sexual misconduct. Many men responded with the support of Christine Blasey Ford, Anita Hill and others reporting sexual assault.
Recent research shows that Republican and Democratic women have different views on what it means to be a woman, and that greater gender equality can increase the distribution of partisans between women. This agrees with the findings of political psychology that partisans interpret political events mainly through the lens of their partisan identity.
How did republican women and democratic men respond to the affirmation?
That's how I did my research
To find out, I've created a study comparing people's voting preferences and the Supreme Court's trust. We questioned the participants after the Kavanaugh Ford hearing, but before the Senate voted to confirm it, and then right afterwards.
I recruited about 4,600 US residents through Amazon's Mechanical Turk. (The founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.) They completed a basic survey to determine their partisan identity, existing opinions, and demographics; Those located outside the US were excluded during this process. This baseline survey took place on October 2 and 3, while the FBI investigated the allegations against Kavanaugh after the hearing.
Half of the randomly selected participants were invited to a follow-up poll on 5 October (before the Senate vote), the other half were invited on 9 October (after the vote). About 4,000 people responded to the follow-up. The number of respondents who participated in the follow-up was approximately the same in the previous and following groups. Comparing these groups, we can measure the impact of Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Respondents of MTurk are not representative of the US population. To ensure that the results were not determined by younger and better educated people, who tend to be over-represented on the MTurk platform, I checked that the results differ significantly by age and education, and no such evidence was found. Indeed, previous studies indicate that experiments performed with MTurk samples generally yield similar results to studies of nationally representative samples. Given the claim that bots, not real people, are taking part in MTurk surveys, I have ensured that the choice, partiality, support of Kavanaugh and the demographic structure of the individuals are correlated as expected.
How the confirmation influenced the election
As political psychology could predict, after the Senate had confirmed Kavanaugh in a vote on all parties before the Supreme Court, the interviewees split by party. The confirmation increased Republican women's intention to vote for the Republican Party by six percentage points, while independent women were pushed to the Democratic side by 12 points.
Meanwhile, the decisions of the men were not changed by the vote in the Senate.
How the affirmative vote influenced trust in the Supreme Court
In a recent issue of Monkey Cage, political scientist Brendan Nyhan suggested that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, "the public position of the court begins to break with partisan lines." That's exactly what my survey finds. The continuation of Kavanaugh's affirmation, despite the controversy that has deepened the partisans, is not clear as Americans think about the Supreme Court.
This was especially the case with women. Again, Republican women supported the court by nine percentage points more after Kavanaugh's confirmation, while Democratic women mistrusted it eleven percentage points more. As a result, the gap between Republican and Democratic women rose from 15 to 34 points.
Men's trust in the court has not changed that much, even though the gap between Republican and Democratic men has risen by nine percentage points.
Since the views of republican and democratic women on the court changed to the same extent in opposite directions, the average gender gap in relation to the court remained about the same.
In short, Kavanaugh's confirmation was indeed polarizing, as many had predicted. However, the most pronounced polarization was not between men and women, but between republican and non-republican women.
Some may be surprised that Republican women doubled their partisan identities – for the same reason that many found Senator Susan Collins' (R-Maine's) decision to vote yes to Kavanaugh particularly disappointing.
However, political scientist Erin Cassese emphasizes: "It is really important not to call women monolithic." In polls and interviews, conservative women backed Kavanaugh in every respect.
Kavanaugh's confirmation reminded us how much women agree on how to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct, and even what it means to identify as a woman in US politics.
Jin Woo Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at the Dartmouth College Program in Quantitative Social Sciences.