What has been the Impact of Gendered Policies on Women's Voting Behaviour? An Analysis of the 2015 British General Election

Student thesis: Phd


Political parties often seek to appeal to women voters through policy pledges. However, little is known as to how and whether these policies influence women's voting behaviour. Using the 2015 British General Election as a case study, the thesis examines the gendered effects of policies and policy promises, and the extent to which they matter for winning women's electoral support. Moreover, it explores how women perceive, experience and negotiate gendered policies in their voting behaviour. Accordingly, this thesis takes an iterative sequential mixed methods approach. In doing so, the thesis examines quantitative data on women's vote choice using the British Election Study, as well as qualitative data exploring women's policy attitudes and voting decisions in their own words. This thesis makes an empirical contribution to understanding the link between gendered policies and vote choice, addressing a gap in the study of gender and voting behaviour. It finds that gendered policies, and the context of elections more widely, matter for the study of gender and voting behaviour. Specifically, 'class-based' economic policies pertaining to the sexual division of labour matter to women voters, whereas policies seeking to tackle discrimination against women are comparatively less salient. Crucially, the thesis finds that the impact of gendered policies on women's voting behaviour varies across the life-stage. The findings show that, in the context of the 2015 General Election, the Conservative-led government's 'class-based' policies were particularly detrimental for support among working-age women, while 'class-based' policies bolstered Conservative support among women in the oldest life-stage. Taken together, the findings make an analytical contribution towards existing accounts of women's voting behaviour by confirming that women vote according to pocketbook heuristics. However, these pocketbook heuristics are directly related to the context of the election, such as the policies on offer and the economic context in which the election is held. Moreover, the findings provide empirical evidence to tackle the lack of knowledge surrounding the link between gendered policy promises and voting behaviour. The results suggest that studies of women's voting behaviour should place a greater focus on the context of elections in addition to socioeconomic factors.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFrancesca Gains (Supervisor) & Maria Sobolewska (Supervisor)


  • Voting
  • Public policy
  • Gender
  • Elections

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