Survey: Opinions often differ by gender

Amy Horst

Although most University students support same-sex marriage and oppose the war in Iraq, their opinions are often divided by gender, according to a study conducted by a sociology class at the University.

Professor Ronald Anderson’s Sociological Research Methods class (Soc 3801) spent a large part of the semester creating questions, doing Web and telephone surveys and analyzing the results of the survey to get a better idea of where University students stand on many current issues.

The large gender gap in students’ responses was one of the most surprising results of the survey, Anderson said.

“The issues that we found gender differences on were primarily related to cultural aspects like the war in Iraq, carrying guns and same-sex marriage,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely a matter of sensitivity to other cultures and other groups underlying those issues.”

Sociological surveys often expose differences that are subtle in everyday life but could change society’s priorities once women are in more positions of power, Anderson said.

He said such differences are likely the result of socialization, in which young girls play with dolls and young boys play video games that often do not encourage the development of social skills.

LuAnne Johnson, a teaching assistant for the class, said she was surprised women identified overall as being more liberal, and she was particularly surprised conservative women were more likely than all men to be supportive of same-sex marriage.

“(The survey) has brought out an interesting factor that needs to be looked at,” Johnson said.

Another surprising finding in the study, Anderson said, showed tuition increases are more likely to adversely affect women. Women whose families had less education also received less financial support from their families and were more likely to have loans than men from similar familial situations.

“I think it’s mainly related to old-fashioned ideas that a woman’s job is to raise a family,” Anderson said.

Students whose parents did not have a college degree also said they would be more likely to face hardship if tuition increased.

It is not uncommon for political attitudes to be divided between genders, sociology professor Elizabeth Boyle said.

She also said socialization is a major factor in such divisions.

Men might be more likely to disagree with same-sex marriage because they are taught from a young age to fear being perceived as gay, she said.

“If a little boy comes into day care one day wearing nail polish, everybody’s horrified,” she said.

Anderson’s students said doing the survey was a valuable experience.

Judy Ciofani, a sophomore in Anderson’s class, said the project was a good way to summarize everything the class had studied throughout the semester.

“It was really cool to see how everything came together at the end,” said Ciofani, a Spanish and sociology student.

Samantha Dibble, an advertising senior in Anderson’s class, spent three hours doing telephone interviews for the survey at the Minnesota Center for Survey Research.

“It’s really surprising how much people are willing to share,” Dibble said of the telephone interviews. “I only got refused once.”

Dibble said she had previously done telephone interviews for a survey in her advertising class, but had never been involved in making the survey.

The number of students who identified as liberal was surprising, said Ashley Booker, a sociology junior.

“I did expect that, but I didn’t expect it to be the big majority that it was,” she said.