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The Political Representation of Men: An Empirical Exploration of Men’s Interests

Elections
Gender
Representation
Audrey Vandeleene
Ghent University
Karen Celis
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Silvia Erzeel
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Eline Severs
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Audrey Vandeleene
Ghent University

Abstract

To date, research on gender and political representation has predominantly centred on women. The assumption that men as a privileged group automatically gain representation is nevertheless problematic. Not only are some (dominant) groups of men better represented than others (Celis et al. 2014), we simply do not know what men’s interests are and how well they are represented. In one of the few theoretical accounts of men’s interests, Pease (2002) argues that men’s interests are best conceived as wide-ranging and constructed, thereby delegitimizing the claim that men’s vested interest lies in maintaining the status quo. Up until today, however, no study has actually explored the nature of men’s interests in an empirical way. This paper offers a first attempt to conceptualize and operationalize the notion of men’s interests in empirical research. Based on new and original data from the 2014 PARTIREP voter survey organized in Belgium on the occasion of the 2014 federal and regional elections, we study men’s political issue locations, their political priorities and their voting behaviour. The main questions that guide our research are the following: Do men organize their political views in a particular way? Do they formulate a particular set of interests and do they act upon these interests? And are men’s interests in the end intended to keep the status quo or do they also demand change? Next to offering empirical insights into men’s political interests, this paper also provides a theoretical contribution to broader debates on group interests. We reflect on the nature of group interests (practical versus strategic interests, Molyneux 1985; self-interests versus ideal interests, Pease 2002) and we formulate recommendations on how to measure group interests. We finally reflect on what the identification of a distinct set of men’s interests implies for theories on descriptive and substantive representation of social groups.