Persuasion and Perception: N ew Models of N etw ork Effects on Gendered Issues
From previous research, we do know that people’s political views vary with the salient characteristics of those they know and by whom they are influenced. But there has been little attention to the role of gender in this. As people who receive influence, are men and women equally responsive to the characteristics of their networks? As the people who may exert influence, that is, as the members of a person’s network, are men and women equally influential? And, since influence is an interaction, do men and women have different degrees of responsiveness to the kinds of men and women in their networks? The answers are far from obvious, both because of the lack of earlier
research and because of the existence of plausible theoretical arguments for almost every possible outcome, as I explain below. Yet the answers are quite important to our understanding of gender and social capital in politics. For example, if people who know a wide variety of women are influenced by them and drawn toward the typical wom en’s views on issues, then networks serve as an im portant form of collective social capital for women, in that they are an informal broadcasting system for getting w om en’s views across to others. The role of network influence is especially important for women, since (as others in this volume argue) women more than men form their social capital and do their politics in informal ways. Do these informal investments pay off, and if so, in just which ways?