Gender differences in personal values of national and local Italian politicians, activists and voters

Donata Francescato, Minou E. Mebane, Michele Vecchione
Published Online:
27 Nov 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 52 Issue 5

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Theorists of politics of presence postulate that women elected to political office would still hold values similar to ordinary women and therefore represent them better than male politicians. Gender differences in personal values, which underline and give coherence to core political values, have been found among voters: males score higher on self‐enhancement values (power and achievement) and females higher on self‐transcendence values (universalism and benevolence). Our study aims to explore if gender differences in personal values are still present among activists, local and national politicians. We administer a shortened version of the Portrait Values Questionnaire to 233 Italian national politicians (46% females), 425 local politicians (56% females), 626 political activists (44% females), and 3249 ordinary citizens (49% females). Our results confirm only partially politics of presence theory: females at all levels of political involvement score higher in self‐transcendent values that emphasise concern for the welfare of others, but no significant gender differences emerge for self‐enhancement, which favour the pursuit of self‐interest. Our findings support ethical struggles for more balanced gender representation: a higher proportion of women in politics could strengthen the political representation of self‐transcendence values.

© 2015 International Union of Psychological Science