Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Taking a look at female voting patterns

Gender is a very important voting consideration in elections. Men and women do not traditionally have the same approach to choosing public officers. Whilst a majority of the research related to gender and the voting patterns of the electorate has focused on the trends of female voters, the voting conduct of male voters has also evolved over the decades. The voting behavior of each sex continues to have significant impact on the out- comes of local, state, and national elections. 

The population of males to females in Nigeria is almost 50-50 in all states and regions. The figure below shows the population distribution between males and females in the six geopolitical zones of the federation. 

The study of voting behaviour is a highly specialized sub-field within political science. The analysis of voting patterns invariably focuses on the determinants of why people vote as they do and how they arrive at the decisions they make. Sociologists tend to look to the socio-economic determinants of support for political parties, observing the correlations between class, occupation, ethnicity, sex, age and vote; political scientists have concentrated on the influence of political factors such as issues, political programmes, electoral campaigns, and the popularity of party leaders on voting behaviour. However, both disciplines share much the same terrain, and increasingly have tended to overlap in their analytical approaches. 

Population distribution by sex and zones in Nigeria

With the emerging women’s rights movement, a movement in the 1970s that aimed to increase the political, legal, and economic rights of women, female voters continued making decisions based on their political ideology and social contexts, rather than voting as a separate block. It would therefore be very risky and ill advised for a politician to think that women will vote in a particular way simply because they are women. While there are certain issues that are more important to female voters than their male counterparts; and for this reason trends can be established in female voting patterns, it is however pertinent to understand that issue based politics is as critical to female voters as it is to male voters.

According to some brilliant research titled 'Feminism and Political Participation in Nigeria: An Empirical Analysis'1, out of the total number of women who were interviewed, the results amazingly showed that 635 (i.e. 100%) of the respondents voted for male presidential candidates, while none voted for any of the female aspirants. In follow up questions the reasons, which informed the responses of the women were elicited. The table below is a summary of the findings. This study shows that women will not vote for other women simply because they are women. It also shows that women just like men will not vote for a candidate who is not well publicized (because they are not aware of the person’s candidacy) and that a number of women would rather vote for a candidate if they are of the same ethnic background or political party. The research further shows that many women (most likely in the rural areas) vote the way their husbands direct them to as well. Obviously women hold on to a myriad of issues, which define their voting behavior.

1Fatile, Olufemi Jacob Ph D, Akhakpe, Ighodalo Ph D ,Igbokwe-Ibeto, Chinyeaka Justine, Oteh, Chukwuemeka Okpo Ph D (2012) “Feminism and Political Participation in Nigeria: An Empirical Analysis”, International Journal of Asian Social Science, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 1077-1092.

What informed your Electoral Behavior

No. of Responses
Not aware of any female candidate
Ethnic group, zone and same party
The world is mans world
Directed by husband
Not ripe for women
Security situation
Men have greater capacity

It is clear from the above submissions that ‘gender’ does affect voting behaviour. It is also evident that men and women do not vote exactly in the same way even though there are issues and areas of overlap. Since there is no INEC data on gender spread in Nigerian elections (although the voter’s register shows the gender spread) it is almost impossible to say which regions, states, cities or towns experience higher or lower turnout of female voters and why. It is also very difficult to ascertain if women of a particular religion or tribe vote one way or in another way and if there are any consistencies that can be determined. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is thus encouraged to develop a means of obtaining this data from the voters as this will help in understanding and interpreting election results better. 

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