There is a documented and significant party and ideology gap between men and women. Why is this?
Many studies have shown that men and women have a statistically significant gap in party identification and ideology with men more likely to identify as republicans and more conservative. There are many theories that attempt to explain why this is. One theory is society itself. Through socialization, men and women are taught to act and think certain ways. Women are socialized to be more compassionate and gentle. Men are taught to be more aggressive and opinionated. These norms effectively create the mentality of separate spheres and carries through political identities. Generally, women are more supportive of "compassion issues" such as welfare and childcare along with being more supportive of activist government-- qualities traditionally embodied in the Democratic Party. On the other hand, men are more concerned with "masculine issues" like the economy and international affairs. Regardless of how policy preferences are formed, theorists point out that men and women have different interests. They hypothesize that the reason why women support compassion issues is because they are more likely to be affected by these policies. In addition, even if a woman is not going to be personally affected by changes to the welfare system she may view her support of welfare programs as helped women as a whole. In other words, she is expressing a feminist consciousness. The gap between men and women has been getting larger of the last couple decades. However, the growing distance is due to the shift in men's attitides. Studies have shown that women are not becoming more liberal or more democratic, it is men who are becoming more conservative and more republican.
Public policies are meant to serve the public interest. How is the public interest defined?
Books could be, and have been, written on this subject. Most people take "public interest" at face value, never examining who defines what that interest is. Every branch of government has its role in defining public interest, some more than others. Members of Congress assert themselves as representatives of their constituents-- of the people. In turn, members of Congress, presumably, are responsive to the wants and policy preferences of the people. In that case, the public defines its own interest. However, Congress can also push the public to adopt other preferences. The executive can also define the public interest. As the only officeholder in American government who is elected by the entire country. presidents can claim to represent the majority of the public and, therefore, have the right to define the public interest. Yet, the president must also be aware of the ramifications of promoting policies that the public does not support. Another piece of this public interest puzzle is that of the "fourth branch of government": the bureaucracy. Agency heads are appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress. However, depending on the agency and the policy area, have considerable autonomy. In cases of high bureaucratic discretion agencies have more power to define the public interest and carry out policies to best serve that interest. The basis of this public interest paradox can be studied in the Principal-Agent model developed in the 1970s by Stephen Ross and Barry Mitnick . Who is the agent and who is the principal? However, it is not merely that simple. There can also be multiple agents and multiple principals. Moreover, an agent can also serve as another actor's principal. There is no simple answer to the question of who defines the public interest. It is defined differently by different actors at different times.
The field of political science has two distinct camps--qualitative researchers and quantitative researchers. As Gabriel Almond (1990) writes, political scientists "sit at separate tables." So, which way is the best way?
Truth be told, there is a time and place for both quantitative and qualitative methods in the field of political science. There are studies that are more suited to be handled with one-on-one interviews or pure observation, qualitative techniques, and studies which are more suited to be examined with statistical analysis. In fact, many political scientists utilize both in their research. The most important thing to keep in mind is the quality of the methods. Whether you use quantitative or qualitative methods, the technique is vital to the validity of the reserach.