What’s Sex Got to Do With It? Polling, Poverty and the Political Gender Gap

With so many journalists, bloggers and arm-chair pundits pontificating and trying to find meaning in the US election results – I find it interesting that there is much being made about the voting differences between women and men, the way the campaigns did or didn’t convince voters in economically depressed areas and the “historic, demographic shift”.  Interesting because as I poured over BCAHL’s recent polling numbers –public opinion polling, that is – I noticed some interesting differences in the policies preferred by women, seniors and those on lower incomes.

In October, BCAHL commissioned some public opinion research to get a sense of what British Columbians think about a range of different policies to promote health and prevent disease.  I have to confess I was somewhat surprised by the results. The number one response, picked by 78% of a random selection of the public was: a poverty reduction plan.

But among women, seniors or those with incomes under $50,000 the importance of taking action on a poverty reduction plan was even higher – between 82% – 86%.  And among those groups, 48% – 54% identified the issue of poverty reduction as VERY important for provincial leaders to act on now.   Is it because women, seniors or those with incomes under $50,000 are more empathetic? More charitable? Or more likely to experience poverty first hand? It’s hard to say exactly but it is interesting to note the 8% gap between men and women and the 16% gap between those who make less than $50,000 and those who make over $100,000.

Another healthy living measure with a high level of support was employer provided health and wellness programs. 76% of British Columbians felt this was important and support was fairly uniform across the board. If this includes you – be sure to check out Canadian Cancer Society’s Wellness Fits program.

Another policy with a high level of support on average but with noticeable demographic divergence is: adjusting income assistance rates to account for the real cost of a healthy diet and real rental costs.  Although overall 75% of British Columbians flagged this as an issue of importance, women, seniors or those with low incomes put it up higher to 80%. And again there was a fair gap (12%) between men and women on the issue and significant gap of 19% between those with lower incomes compared to those who are more economically comfortable.

BCAHL will be hosting a webinar in December to explore the connections between income and health and what a provincial poverty reduction plan might do to change things.  What do you think about poverty and health? What would you change?

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Policy and Communications
November 2012

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