Political Science Gender, Behavior, and Representation
by
Elisabeth Gidengil
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0010

Introduction

Discussions of gender, behavior, and representation have been dominated by the notion of a “gender gap.” The term simply refers to a significant sex difference in political orientations or political behavior. It became a staple of political commentary in the wake of the 1980 US presidential election when a gap of eight percentage points separated women and men in their vote for Ronald Reagan, with women being much less likely than men to vote for the Republican candidate. This gap encouraged quantitatively oriented feminist scholars to start focusing on gender as a factor in understanding voting behavior and political preference. Since then, many studies have revealed that women tend to be more supportive of government intervention to help those in need, more resistant to the use of force, more “dovish” on military matters, and more tolerant of new lifestyles and changing moral values than men. Similar gaps have appeared across time and across surveys, and research done in other established Western democracies confirms that these gender gaps are a more pervasive phenomenon. Studies have also shown that women are typically less interested in politics, less knowledgeable about political matters, feel less politically efficacious than men, and are less likely to express political opinions. Yet despite these indications that women are less politically engaged, male-female differences in political activity are typically quite modest. This contrasts with the gender gap at the elite level. Concern with the lack of women in elected office has led to studies that seek to account for women’s underrepresentation and examine whether having more women in legislatures affects legislative behavior and policy outcomes. It is important to recognize that there are some potential pitfalls in pursuing research on the gender gap phenomenon, including the risk of categorical thinking, reinforcing gender stereotypes, and inviting normative comparisons. It can give rise to a female-centered perspective that risks overlooking the fact that gender influences men’s political orientations and behavior as well. Moreover, when we ask why women’s political behavior and political orientations differ from men’s—rather than the other way around—we implicitly assume a male norm. Focusing on male-female differences can also lead to a neglect of the differences among women, which often exceed those between women and men. Note that this article follows much of the literature in using the term “gender” in referring to any male-female differences and not just those that are socially constructed. Note also that the focus is mainly on established Western democracies.

Early Contributions

Duverger 1955 presents a useful portrait of the role played by women in elections and in political leadership at a time when these topics attracted little scholarly attention. Note that Duverger 1955 was careful in drawing inferences, observing for example that similarity in the votes of husbands and wives should not necessarily be taken to mean that the wives were submitting to the husband’s will; they could just as well be influencing the husband’s vote. Bourque and Grossholtz 1974 and Goot and Reid 1975 provide extended critiques of the treatment of women in some of the discipline’s classic studies of voting and political behavior. Both serve as a useful reminder of some of the pitfalls of comparing women to men.

  • Bourque, Susan C., and Jean Grossholtz. “Politics as Unnatural Practice: Political Science Looks at Female Participation.” Politics and Society 4.2 (Winter 1974): 225–266.

    DOI: 10.1177/003232927400400205Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful critique of the early political science literature on gender disparities in political participation that discusses how the classic studies distorted women’s participation in politics.

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  • Duverger, Maurice. The Political Role of Women. Paris: UNESCO, 1955.

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    This is the first extended analysis of women’s political behavior. Based on reports from France, West Germany, Norway, and Yugoslavia, it found that women were slightly less likely than men to vote, slightly more conservative, and more influenced by their religion. But the book emphasized that the differences were small.

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  • Goot, Murray, and Elizabeth Reid. Women and Voting Studies: Mindless Matrons or Sexist Scientism? Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1975.

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    Provides a critique of the early literature on voting behavior questioning the interpretation of the findings and the conclusions reached.

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Landmark Monographs

The 1980s began to see the emergence of book-length empirical studies of gender and political behavior. Baxter and Lansing 1983 challenges the hitherto prevailing portrait of women as politically apathetic and deferring to their husbands and fathers in matters political. It emphasizes the implications of structural changes in society for women’s changing political roles and underlines the importance of focusing not just on differences between women and men but also on the differences among women. Indeed, two chapters are devoted to an examination of the intersections between race and gender. Baxter and Lansing 1983 recognizes the importance of socialization but does not discuss this in any depth. Sapiro 1983, by contrast, provides an extended analysis of the influence of gender roles and socialization. It was able to draw on data collected from young women as high school seniors and again as young adults to explore the impact of traditional conceptions of gender roles on their political values and attitudes. Darcy, et al. 1994 switches the focus to the elite level, providing an in-depth examination of the roots of women’s numerical underrepresentation in elected office, while Thomas 1994 examines whether having more women in the legislature makes a difference in terms of legislative outputs and traces how the behavior of women legislators changed as their numbers grew. Burns, et al. 2001 develops an influential model of gender differences in political activity that focuses on the role of nonpolitical institutions in developing politically relevant skills and resources. However, the model did not serve to explain gender differences in psychological orientations to politics, leading the authors to examine the impact of political role models. Drawing on modernization theory, Inglehart and Norris 2003 provides the most encompassing cross-national analysis of gender and political behavior at both the mass and elite levels.

  • Baxter, Sandra, and Marjorie Lansing. Women and Politics: The Visible Majority. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983.

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    Originally published in 1980 with the subtitle, The Invisible Majority, this was one of the first comprehensive studies of women’s political behavior. It links women’s growing politicization to the changing structure of families, women’s entry into the paid workforce in large numbers, and women’s increased access to education.

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  • Burns, Nancy, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba. The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality and Political Participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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    Provides a wide-ranging analysis of the cumulative effect of gender-differentiated experiences in the family, school, workplace, church, and voluntary associations in explaining gender differences in political activity.

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  • Darcy, Robert, Susan Welch, and Janet Clark. Women, Elections and Representation. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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    A comprehensive analysis of the lack of women in elected office, it dispelled the notion that this reflected prejudice against women candidates on the part of voters or political elites, highlighting instead the limited size of the eligibility pool, slow legislative turnover, and the electoral system.

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  • Inglehart, Ronald, and Pippa Norris. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the World. London: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511550362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing on the World Values Surveys, this book analyzes the political consequences of the cultural shifts that have accompanied the move from agrarian to industrial to postindustrial societies. It includes chapters on the gender gap in voting behavior and public opinion, political activism, and women as political leaders.

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  • Sapiro, Virginia. The Political Integration of Women: Roles, Socialization and Politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.

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    Focusing on young women who reached adulthood after the emergence of the second-wave women’s movement, this book provided the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of women’s private roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers on their political behavior and political orientations.

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  • Thomas, Sue. How Women Legislate. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    The first book-length study of the impact of increasing numbers of women in elected office on legislative procedures and legislative outcomes, it emphasized the importance of achieving a certain threshold level of representation in order for women to become active participants in the lawmaking process and influence legislative priorities.

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Journals

Two political science journals focus exclusively on gender and politics: the Journal of Women, Politics and Policy and Politics and Gender. Articles on the topic are also published fairly frequently in the American Journal of Political Science and Journal of Politics, two of the most highly cited journals in the discipline. Political Research Quarterly publishes research covering every field in political science, including gender and sexuality. Articles on gender and public opinion can be found in Public Opinion Quarterly, the leading interdisciplinary journal devoted to publishing research on public opinion and communication.

Gender and Political Orientations

One of the most consistent findings in the literature on gender, behavior, and representation is that women are less interested in politics, feel less politically efficacious, are less likely to express political opinions and know less about politics. These patterns hold across countries and have defied a fully satisfactory explanation. Early explanations focused on resources and/or socialization. More early-21st-century work has turned attention to the cues that women receive that can reinforce (or counter) the socialized perception that politics is a masculine domain. There has also been a growing concern with how political knowledge is conceptualized and measured.

Gender Gaps in Political Efficacy and Political Interest

Bennett and Bennett 1989 is the first in-depth analysis of the long-standing gender gap in political interest in the United States. Inglehart 1981 indicates that this is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Verba, et al. 1997 illustrates the difficulty of explaining these gender gaps and draws attention to the possible role of visible female candidates in narrowing the gaps. Atkeson 2003 and Atkeson and Carillo 2007 confirm the importance of a role model effect in mobilizing women to become politically engaged. Atkeson 2003 focuses on female candidates while Atkeson and Carillo 2007 looks at the presence of women in elected office. Wolbrecht and Campbell 2006 and Wolbrecht and Campbell 2007 show that the presence of female politicians has a particularly strong effect on female adolescents. Wolbrecht and Campbell 2006 analyzes this role model effect cross-nationally while Wolbrecht and Campbell 2007 examines the effect across time in America. However, Lawless 2004 offers a challenge to the notion that being represented by a woman will enhance women’s feelings of political efficacy.

  • Atkeson, Lonna Rae. “Not All Cues are Created Equal: The Conditional Impact of Female Candidates on Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 65.4 (November 2003): 1040–1061.

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    Emphasizes the need to look beyond resources and socialization to consider the cues that women receive about the openness of the political system. Shows that the presence of a competitive female senatorial or gubernatorial candidate enhances women’s political self-confidence, opinion expression, frequency of political discussion, and political proselytizing.

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  • Atkeson, Lonna Rae, and Nancy Carillo. “More is Better: The Influence of Collective Female Descriptive Representation on External Efficacy.” Politics and Gender 3.1 (March 2007): 79–101.

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    Highlights the importance of women’s presence in elected office in enhancing women’s perceptions of government responsiveness. The focus is on the presence of women in the legislative and executive branches at the state level in the USA.

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  • Bennett, Linda L. M., and Stephen Earl Bennett. “Enduring Gender Differences in Political Interest: The Impact of Socialization and Political Dispositions.” American Politics Research 17.1 (January 1989): 105–122.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X8901700106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that the US gender gap in political interest owes more to differences in political orientations (such as perceived system responsiveness, subjective political competence, partisanship) than to situational and structural factors. The importance of socialization is highlighted by the fact that traditional conceptions of gender roles only affect older women.

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  • Campbell, David E., and Christina Wolbrecht. “See Jane Run: Women Politicians as Role Models for Adolescents.” Journal of Politics 68.2 (May 2006): 233–247.

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    Examining adolescent girls’ anticipated political involvement over more than two decades, this article challenges the assumption that the political role model effect is mediated through changing attitudes about women’s role in politics or an enhanced sense of government responsiveness. Instead, the causal mechanism is more frequent political discussion, especially with parents.

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  • Inglehart, Margaret L. “Political Interest in West European Women: An Historical and Empirical Comparative Analysis.” Comparative Political Studies 14.3 (October 1981): 299–326.

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    An early cross-national study showing that while women in all eight countries were less likely than men to discuss politics, the differences among women were larger than the differences between women and men. The author finds that the gender differences are greatest in predominantly Catholic countries.

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  • Lawless, Jennifer L. “Politics of Presence? Congresswomen and Symbolic Representation.” Political Research Quarterly 57.1 (March 2004): 81–99.

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    Based on National Election Study data from the 1980s and 1990s, this finds little evidence of a role model effect: women whose member of Congress is a woman do not have more positive perceptions of system responsiveness or a heightened sense of political competence once party congruence is taken into account.

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  • Verba, Sidney, Nancy Burns, and Kay Lehman Schlozman. “Knowing and Caring about Politics: Gender and Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 59.4 (November 1997): 1051–1072.

    DOI: 10.2307/2998592Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gender gaps in political interest and external political efficacy persist even when differences in political resources such as educational attainment, cognitive capacity, and civic skills are taken into account. Provides some evidence that the presence of a visible female candidate may enhance women’s political engagement.

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  • Wolbrecht, Christina, and David E. Campbell. “Leading by Example: Female Members of Parliament as Political Role Models.” American Journal of Political Science 51.4 (October 2007): 921–939.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00289.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comparative analysis of the impact of the proportion of women in the national legislature on adolescent girls’ propensity to discuss politics with their friends and to envision themselves as being active in politics as adults.

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Gender and Opinion Expression

Women are much more likely to respond “don’t know” when asked for their opinions about politics. Rapoport 1982 was the first to offer an extended analysis of this phenomenon. Atkeson and Rapoport 2003 shows that this gender gap in opinion expression persists. Note that the emphasis on women’s “socialized reticence” about politics in both articles overlooks the possibility that men have been socialized to believe that they ought to have opinions about politics whether they actually do or not.

  • Atkeson, Lonna Rae, and Ronald B. Rapoport. “The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same: Examining Gender Differences in Political Attitude Expression, 1952–2000.” Public Opinion Quarterly 67.4 (2003): 495–521.

    DOI: 10.1086/378961Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that the gender gap in opinion expression has barely changed over a fifty-year period despite women’s gains in politically relevant resources such as education and employment. Concludes that gendered political socialization is still at the root of the gender gap in opinion expression.

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  • Rapoport, Ronald B. “Sex Differences in Attitude Expression: A Generational Explanation.” Public Opinion Quarterly 46.1 (1982): 86–96.

    DOI: 10.1086/268701Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attributes the gender gap in opinion expression to women’s “socialized reticence” about politics. Note that the author overlooks the possibility that men may be more reluctant to respond “don’t know” because they have been socialized to believe they ought to have opinions about politics.

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Gender and Political Knowledge

Gender gaps in political knowledge have appeared with remarkable consistency across established Western democracies: almost without exception, men score higher than women on measures of political knowledge. The size of the gaps may differ from one country to another, but the pattern is clear. Verba, et al. 1997 documents gender differences in political knowledge in the USA using a variety of measures while illustrating the difficulty of explaining the gender gap in political knowledge. Interestingly, the study finds that the gap does not extend to school politics, an arena that has traditionally been more accessible to women and that deals with matters of direct relevance to the mothers of pre-school and school-age children. Frazer and Macdonald 2003 provides similar data on male-female differences in political knowledge in Britain. A number of studies have attempted to account for the knowledge gap but it has defied a fully satisfactory explanation. Dow 2009 shows that the gender gap in political knowledge is partly attributable to the differential effects of resources. Mondak and Anderson 2004 is able to explain some of the knowledge gap in terms of gender differences in the propensity to guess the answers to political knowledge questions. Lizotte and Sidman 2009 provides a theoretical basis for this measurement artifact, attributing it to a more basic difference in willingness to take a risk. McGlone, et al. 2006 offers an explanation that highlights the cueing of negative gender stereotypes and a sex-of-interviewer effect. Dolan 2011 and Stolle and Gidengil 2010 take a different tack. Both articles argue for the need to expand political knowledge batteries to include questions that tap gender-relevant knowledge. Dolan 2011 shows that the knowledge gaps disappear when the questions ask about women’s representation or ask for the names of prominent women in politics. Stolle and Gidengil 2010 reports a similar result when women are queried about government programs.

  • Dolan, Kathleen. “Do Women and Men Know Different Things? Measuring Gender Differences in Political Knowledge.” Journal of Politics 73.1 (January 2011): 97–107.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022381610000897Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that gender differences disappear when gender-relevant measures of political knowledge are used that ask about women’s representation in Congress or on the Supreme Court or ask respondents to name prominent female politicians.

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  • Dow, Jay K. “Gender Differences in Political Knowledge: Distinguishing Characteristics-based and Returns-based Differences.” Political Behavior 31.1 (March 2009): 117–136.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-008-9059-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses a statistical decomposition approach to show that part of the gender gap in political knowledge can be explained in terms of the differential benefits that women and men derive from equivalent levels of education.

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  • Frazer, Elizabeth, and Kenneth Macdonald. “Sex Differences in Political Knowledge in Britain.” Political Studies 51.1 (March 2003): 67–83.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.00413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates that the gender gap in political knowledge is not confined to the USA. Takes account of a variety of contextual factors as well as interactions between sex and other relevant variables, but still leaves much of the British gap unexplained.

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  • Lizotte, Mary-Kate, and Andrew H. Sidman. “Explaining the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge.” Politics and Gender 5.2 (June 2009): 127–151.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X09000130Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on theories of risk aversion to explain why women are less likely than men to guess the answers to political knowledge questions. Failure to take account of this differential propensity to guess partially accounts for observed gender gaps in political knowledge.

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  • McGlone, Matthew S., Joshua Aronson, and Diane Kobrynowicz. “Stereotype Threat and the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 30.4 (December 2006): 392–398.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2006.00314.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes a novel approach to explaining the gender gap in political knowledge, focusing on the survey context and the role of explicit (being told that the survey has previously elicited gender differences) and implicit (a male interviewer’s voice) cues in triggering a negative gender stereotype about women’s knowledge of politics.

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  • Mondak, Jeffrey J., and Mary R. Anderson. “The Knowledge Gap: A Reexamination of Gender- based Differences in Political Knowledge.” Journal of Politics 66.2 (May 2004): 492–512.

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    Focusing on the role of measurement artifacts in explaining the political knowledge gap, this study suggests that men are more likely than women to guess rather than admit they do not know the answers to political knowledge questions; to the extent that men guess correctly, the knowledge gap is inflated.

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  • Stolle, Dietlind, and Elisabeth Gidengil. “What Do Women Really Know? A Gendered Analysis of Varieties of Political Knowledge.” Perspectives on Politics 8.1 (March 2010): 93–109.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1537592709992684Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Building on feminist critiques of conventional measures of political knowledge, this study shows that knowledge gaps disappear or even reverse when the questions relate to government benefits and services. However, the study also reveals that the women who are most in need of these programs are least aware of them.

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  • Verba, Sidney, Nancy Burns, and Kay Lehman Schlozman. “Knowing and Caring about Politics: Gender and Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 59.4 (November 1997): 1051–1072.

    DOI: 10.2307/2998592Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reveals a consistent pattern of male-female differences in political knowledge that can only be partly explained by differences in educational attainment, cognitive capacity, and civic skills. There is one exception, however: the gender gap disappears when it comes to knowing the head of the school system.

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Gender and Political Participation

Despite the persistent gender gaps in political interest, political knowledge, and political efficacy, male-female differences in political activity have remained modest in recent decades. Early explorations of gender gaps in political activity focused on the role of pre-adult socialization and the impact of situational (e.g. women’s confinement to the domestic sphere) and structural (e.g. income disparities) factors. More recent work has also looked at the effects of psychological and cognitive resources and the impact of political role models.

Gender, Socialization, and Political Participation

Jennings 1983 provides a useful exposition of the political socialization argument as well as an in-depth cross-national assessment of this explanation. Clark and Clark 1986 adds nuance to the socialization explanation by showing that adult role socialization and socioeconomic status condition the effects of childhood socialization. Welch 1977 is useful as an early statement of the structural and situational explanations while also calling the socialization explanation into question. Hooghe and Stolle 2004 reinforces these doubts by showing that adolescent girls see themselves being involved in more political activities in adulthood than do their male counterparts. Nonetheless, the fact that girls and boys anticipate being involved in different types of activities does indicate a possible socialization effect. Gidengil, et al. 2010 also points to the importance of early socialization by showing that a politically active mother can have a role model effect.

  • Clark, Cal, and Janet Clark. “Models of Gender and Political Participation in the United States.” Women and Politics 6.1 (Spring 1986): 5–25.

    DOI: 10.1080/1554477X.1986.9970440Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A test of three alternative explanations of the relationship between gender and political participation showing that the impact of traditional gender role socialization in childhood is conditioned by adult role socialization and socioeconomic status.

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  • Gidengil, Elisabeth, Brenda O’Neill, and Lisa Young. “Her Mother’s Daughter? The Influence of Childhood Socialization on Women’s Political Engagement.” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy 31.4 (2010): 334–355.

    DOI: 10.1080/1554477X.2010.533590Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study suggests that having a politically active mother can counter the effects of female socialization. Women whose mother was active in politics when they were growing up are more likely to engage in various political activities as adults. The mother’s influence outweighs that of a politically active father.

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  • Hooghe, Marc, and Dietlind Stolle. “Good Girls Go to the Polling Booth, Bad Boys Go Everywhere: Gender Differences in Anticipated Political Participation among American Fourteen-Year-Olds.” Women and Politics 26.3–4 (2004): 1–23.

    DOI: 10.1300/J014v26n03_01Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of anticipated political activity among American adolescents that casts doubt on the gendered socialization explanation for participation gaps: fourteen-year-old girls anticipated participating in more types of political action in the future than did boys. Note, though, that they tended to favor different kinds of actions.

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  • Jennings, Kent M. “Gender Roles and Inequalities in Political Participation: Results from an Eight-Nation Study.” Western Political Quarterly 36.3 (September 1983): 364–385.

    DOI: 10.2307/448396Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The male participation bias in several Western democracies is attributed to pre-adult socialization: interactions and observations within the family implant the idea that politics is a male preserve.

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  • Welch, Susan. “Women as Political Animals? A Test of Some Explanations for Male-Female Political Participation Differences.” American Journal of Political Science 21.4 (November 1977): 711–730.

    DOI: 10.2307/2110733Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful exposition of three traditional explanations for gender differences in political participation; finds that women participate as much as men once their overrepresentation in demographic categories with low participation levels (structural explanation) and lower level of workforce participation (situational explanation) are taken into account, casting doubt on the gendered socialization explanation.

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The Impact of Work and Family Life

Andersen 1975 illustrates the narrowing of the gender gap in political participation and is a useful introduction to explanations that focus on the role of women’s participation in the paid workforce. Schlozman, et al. 1999 shows that gendered patterns of employment mean that women are disadvantaged when it comes to developing politically relevant skills in the workplace. Burns, et al. 1997 provides a useful introduction to the situational explanation of gender gaps in political participation and shows that lower levels of political activity on the part of women cannot be explained by a lack of time. Schlozman, et al. 1994 draws attention to the role of associational involvement in enhancing women’s political participation, especially if they are full-time homemakers.

  • Andersen, Kristi. “Working Women and Political Participation.” American Journal of Political Science 19.3 (August 1975): 439–453.

    DOI: 10.2307/2110538Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attributes the decline in the gender gap in campaign participation in the USA between 1952 and 1972 to increased participation on the part of employed women and to the impact of the women’s movement.

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  • Burns, Nancy, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba. “The Public Consequences of Private Inequality: Family Life and Citizen Participation.” American Political Science Review 91.2 (June 1997): 373–389.

    DOI: 10.2307/2952362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the assumption that women’s political activity is constrained by a lack of time and by the household division of labor; domestic arrangements have a stronger impact on men’s political participation, with male dominance in the home being politically empowering.

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  • Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, and Sidney Verba. “Gender and the Pathways to Participation: The Role of Resources.” Journal of Politics 56.4 (November 1994): 963–990.

    DOI: 10.2307/2132069Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the role of involvement in voluntary organizations in facilitating women’s political participation, especially if they are not working outside the home; the availability of free time is not a critical factor and the presence of preschool children in the home diminishes political activity for men and women alike.

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  • Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, and Sidney Verba. “‘What Happened at Work Today?’ A Multistage Model of Gender, Employment and Political Participation.” Journal of Politics 61.1 (February 1999): 29–53.

    DOI: 10.2307/2647774Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that gender differences in workplace experiences largely explain the small but persistent gender gap in political participation: women are less likely to acquire politically relevant skills because they are less likely to be in paid employment, more likely to work part-time, and less likely to have a high-level job.

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The Impact of Psychological and Cognitive Resources

Verba, et al. 1997 underlines the limits of resource-based explanations and highlights the need to take account of gender differences in political efficacy and political interest. Ondercin and Jones-White 2011 serves as a reminder of the importance of considering the possibility that a resource such as political knowledge may have different effects on men’s and women’s political participation. It also serves as a reminder of the need to consider differences among women.

  • Ondercin, Heather L., and Daniel Jones-White. “Gender Jeopardy: What is the Impact of Gender Differences in Political Knowledge on Political Participation.” Social Science Quarterly 92.3 (September 2011): 675–694.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00787.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that political knowledge deficits have a larger impact on women’s political participation: the gender gaps in attempting to influence a vote, attending a political meeting, and donating to a political campaign disappear at higher levels of knowledge and reverse for wearing a political button and working for political campaigns.

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  • Verba, Sidney, Nancy Burns, and Kay Lehman Schlozman. “Knowing and Caring about Politics: Gender and Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 59.4 (November 1997): 1051–1072.

    DOI: 10.2307/2998592Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Differences in political resources such as education, income, and civic skills explain some of the small gender disparity in political activity, but that disparity only disappears when male-female differences in political interest, external political efficacy, and political knowledge are taken into account.

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The Impact of Role Models

Recent work has focused on the impact of political role models in enhancing women’s political engagement. Atkeson 2003 is a useful introduction to the role-model argument and provides an empirical assessment of the impact of female candidacies using US data. Wolbrecht and Campbell 2007 shows that the role model effect holds cross-nationally. However, Karp and Banducci 2008 fails to find any support for the role model argument. Note, though, that their sample of countries is not confined to established Western democracies.

  • Atkeson, Lonna Rae. “Not all Cues are Created Equal: The Conditional Impact of Female Candidates on Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 65.4 (November 2003): 1040–1061.

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    Highlights the importance of contextual factors: women are more likely to discuss politics with family or friends and/or try to convince others how to support a candidate in states with competitive female senatorial or gubernatorial candidates.

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  • Karp, Jeffrey A., and Susan A. Banducci. “When Politics is Not Just a Man’s Game: Women’s Representation and Political Engagement.” Electoral Studies 27.1 (March 2008): 105–115.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2007.11.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of thirty-five countries finds that the proportion of women in the national parliament does not counter women’s tendency to be less politically active than men (as indicated by contacting officials, working together on a shared concern, protesting, proselytizing, or showing support for a party or candidate).

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  • Wolbrecht, Christina, and David E. Campbell. “Leading by Example: Female Members of Parliament as Political Role Models.” American Journal of Political Science 51.4 (October 2007): 921–939.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00289.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using survey data from twenty-three European countries, this article shows that young women in countries with more female legislators are more likely to be politically active. The role- model effect declines with age, lending weight to the assumption that the role-model effect is mediated via socialization.

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Gender and Types of Political Activity

Empirical studies have come to different conclusions about the relationship between gender and the types of political activity people engage in. Based on US data, Schlozman, et al. 1995 concludes that men and women tend to engage in similar types of political activity, whereas Coffé and Bolzendahl 2010 draws on cross-national data to document the existence of gender specialization in political activities.

  • Coffé, Hilde, and Catherine Bolzendahl. “Same Game, Different Rules? Gender Differences in Political Participation.” Sex Roles 62.5–6 (March 2010): 318–333.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11199-009-9729-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Across eighteen advanced Western democracies, women are less likely than men to be active party members and to engage in direct contact activism and collective types of political action such as demonstrating; the gender gap reverses for voting and private forms of political action such as signing a petition and donating/raising funds.

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  • Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, Sidney Verba, and Jesse Donahue. “Gender and Citizen Participation: Is There a Different Voice?” American Journal of Political Science 39.2 (May 1995): 267–293.

    DOI: 10.2307/2111613Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Emphasizes the relative lack of gender specialization in the types of political activities people engage in. Women are much more active than men in religious organizations; but contrary to conventional wisdom, women are not more likely than men to focus on local grassroots ad hoc political activities.

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Gender and Public Opinion

Research on gender and political behavior has identified a number of persistent gender gaps in ideological orientations and policy attitudes. Many different explanations have been advanced. It is worth noting that most of these explanations are female-centered, typically seeking to explain why women hold different views than men. Explanations have ranged from gendered socialization in childhood and the experience of motherhood to the impact of feminism to women’s economic vulnerability and power dynamics within the family (and even to genetic inheritance). Explanations have drawn on sociology, political economy, social psychology, and genetics.

Basic Values and General Policy Preferences

Shapiro and Mahajan 1986 was the first study to draw attention to a variety of gender gaps in public opinion that persist to this day. Conover 1988 stakes a claim about the impact of feminism by demonstrating that feminist women were driving the gender gaps in fundamental values and policy attitudes, but Cook and Wilcox 1991 takes issue with Conover’s claim that feminism serves as a catalyst for the expression of distinctively feminine values. Pratto, et al. 1997 develops an explanation for gender gaps in ideology and policy preferences based on social dominance theory, while Hatemi, et al. 2009 explores the biological bases of male-female differences in policy attitudes. De Vaus and McAllister 1989 draws attention to the cross-national variation in the size and direction of male-female differences in ideological self-placement. Inglehart and Norris 2000 advances a developmental theory to explain this cross-national variation. Central to this theory is the notion of a process of gender realignment that is shifting women from the right of men to their left. Norrander and Wilcox 2008 supplies an important corrective by underlining the role of men’s changing ideological orientations.

  • Conover, Pamela Johnston. “Feminists and the Gender Gap.” Journal of Politics 50.4 (November 1988): 985–1010.

    DOI: 10.2307/2131388Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Arguing that we have to look at differences among women in order to understand gender gaps, Conover concludes that feminist women are largely responsible for the gaps in political values (e.g., egalitarianism, symbolic racism), basic value orientations (e.g. sympathy for the disadvantaged, moral traditionalism) and domestic and foreign policy preferences.

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  • Cook, Elizabeth Adell, and Clyde Wilcox. “Feminism and the Gender Gap—A Second Look.” Journal of Politics 53.4 (November 1991): 1111–1122.

    DOI: 10.2307/2131869Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges Conover’s conclusion that feminist consciousness catalyzes uniquely “female” values by showing that feminism has an impact on the values and policy preferences of women and men alike and by demonstrating that there are gender gaps among both feminist women and men and non-feminist women and men.

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  • De Vaus, David, and Ian McAllister. “The Changing Politics of Women: Gender and Political Alignment in 11 Nations.” European Journal of Political Research 17.3 (May 1989): 241–262.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6765.1989.tb00193.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights cross-national variation in the size and direction of gender differences in ideological self-placement: women are more right wing than men in four countries, more left wing than men in one country, and statistically indistinguishable in the other six. Women’s greater conservatism is explained by lower levels of workforce participation and greater religiosity.

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  • Hatemi, Peter K., Sarah E. Medland, and Lindon J. Eaves. “Do Genes Contribute to the ‘Gender Gap’?” Journal of Politics 71.1 (January 2009): 262–276.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022381608090178Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins to explore how environmental, familial, and heritable influences interact to influence political preferences and how these influences are conditioned by sex.

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  • Inglehart, Ronald, and Pippa Norris. “The Developmental Theory of the Gender Gap: Women’s and Men’s Voting Behavior in Global Perspective.” International Political Science Review 21.4 (October 2000): 441–463.

    DOI: 10.1177/0192512100214007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cross-national variation in the size and direction of the gender gap is attributed to a process of gender realignment as women move from the right of men (“traditional gender gap”) to their left (“modern gender gap”) as a result of structural and cultural changes in advanced industrial democracies.

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  • Norrander, Barbara, and Clyde Wilcox. “The Gender Gap in Ideology.” Political Behavior 30.4 (December 2008): 503–523.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-008-9061-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The gender gap in ideological self-placement is shown to have emerged not because women have become more liberal but because men have become much more conservative and because young, well-educated women’s support for gender equality and reproductive rights has led them to resist the conservative shift.

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  • Pratto, Felicia, Lisa M. Stallworth, and Jim Sidanius. “The Gender Gap: Differences in Political Attitudes and Social Dominance Orientation.” British Journal of Social Psychology 36.1 (March 1997): 49–68.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.1997.tb01118.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A preference for inequality among social groups is shown to explain gender gaps in political ideology and policy preferences with respect to the military, crime and punishment, social programs, and equal rights, as men care more about being socially dominant than women.

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  • Shapiro, Robert Y., and Harpreet Mahajan. “Gender Differences in Policy Preferences: A Summary of Trends from the 1960s to the 1980s.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50.1 (Spring 1986): 42–61.

    DOI: 10.1086/268958Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic study documenting persistent gender gaps in attitudes toward the use of force (e.g., defense, capital punishment, gun control), compassion issues (e.g., government-provided health care), and traditional values (e.g., pornography), but not women’s rights issues. Men were more pro-choice than women.

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Domestic Policy Preferences

Schlesinger and Heldman 2001 is a useful introduction to the various explanations that have been advanced to account for gender gaps in support for government programs as well as offering some novel explanations. Alvarez and McCaffery 2003 provides an in-depth analysis of male-female differences in fiscal policy preferences, while Brody 1984 explores gender differences in views about nuclear power. Herek 2002 shows that the gender gap phenomenon applies to views about gay rights. This contribution is also an exception to the female-centered approaches to understanding gender differences in policy attitudes. Applegate, et al. 2002 and Cochran and Sanders 2009 both explore differences in men’s and women’s views about crime and punishment. Applegate, et al. 2002 focuses on views about crime policy while Cochran and Sanders 2009 provides a more in-depth analysis of the gender gap in support for the death penalty. The latter proves resistant to explanation.

  • Alvarez, R. Michael, and Edward J. McCaffery. “Are There Sex Differences in Fiscal Policy Preferences?” Political Research Quarterly 56.1 (March 2003): 5–17.

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    Uncovers a pattern in which women are more supportive than men of using the budget surplus to increase spending on education; whereas men are more supportive of using it to reduce taxes or pay down the debt. However, most of the gap on taxes reflects a woman’s greater tendency to have no opinion on that particular subject.

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  • Applegate, Brandon K., Francis T. Cullen, and Bonnie S. Fisher. “Public Views toward Crime and Correctional Policies: Is There a Gender Gap?” Journal of Criminal Justice 30.2 (March–April 2002): 89–100.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0047-2352(01)00127-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Confirms the existence of a gender gap in views about crime policy: although women and men often share similar views about crime, women are more supportive than men of rehabilitation policies and much less supportive of the death penalty for murder.

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  • Brody, Charles J. “Differences by Sex in Support for Nuclear Power.” Social Forces 63.1 (September 1984): 209–228.

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    Women’s greater concern about the safety of nuclear plants and the possible dangers to health and human life are shown to be at the root of the gender gap in support for nuclear power.

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  • Cochran, John K., and Beth A. Sanders. “The Gender Gap in Death Penalty Support: An Exploratory Study.” Journal of Criminal Justice 37.6 (November–December 2009): 525–533.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2009.09.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The persistence of a gender gap in support for capital punishment across a thirty-year span cannot be explained by socialized value differences, traditional gender norms and roles, status differentials and gender inequalities, gender differences in life experiences, or feminist consciousness.

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  • Herek, Gregory M. “Gender Gaps in Public Opinion about Lesbians and Gay Men.” Public Opinion Quarterly 66.1 (Spring 2002): 40–66.

    DOI: 10.1086/338409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Heterosexual men’s negative reactions to gay men are shown to be largely responsible for gender gaps in support for the extension of employee benefits to same-sex couples, as well as support for employment protection and adoption rights for gays and lesbians.

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  • Schlesinger, Mark, and Caroline Heldman. “Gender Gap or Gender Gaps? New Perspectives on Support for Government Action and Policies.” Journal of Politics 63.1 (February 2001): 59–92.

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    Tests a large number of possible explanations for the gender gap in support for government social programs; concludes that the gap reflects male-female differences in altruism, egalitarianism, perceived equality of opportunity, perceived abuse of government programs, and preferred forms of policy intervention.

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Foreign Policy Preferences

Fite, et al. 1990 is an early exploration of gender gaps in attitudes toward foreign policy. Eichenberg 2003 documents the persistence of gender differences in this domain in the context of a series of episodes that involved the actual or potential use of military force. Conover and Sapiro 1993 advances a gendered socialization explanation for gender gaps in attitudes toward military conflicts. Togeby 1994 highlights the importance of women’s left-wing mobilization. Neither of these two studies finds any support for maternalist explanations that attribute the gender gap in foreign policy attitudes to the experience of motherhood. Wilcox, et al. 1996 demonstrates that gender gaps in attitudes toward the use of military force are not a uniquely US phenomenon. Nelsen and Guth 2000 provides a thorough assessment of possible explanations for gender differences in views about European integration, while Gidengil 1995 assesses a variety of explanations for the gender gap in support for free trade. Nelsen and Guth 2000 supports explanations that focus on women’s economic vulnerability; Gidengil 1995 lends weight to explanations that point to the role of fundamental value differences.

  • Conover, Pamela Johnston, and Virginia Sapiro. “Gender, Feminist Consciousness, and War.” American Journal of Political Science 37.4 (November 1993): 1079–1099.

    DOI: 10.2307/2111544Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gender gaps are greatest with respect to emotional responses to actual conflicts. They are attributed to gendered socialization in childhood since they cannot be explained by a host of other possible factors. There is only limited support for the role of feminist consciousness and no support for the maternalist explanation.

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  • Eichenberg, Richard C. “Gender Differences in Public Attitudes toward the Use of Force by the United States 1990–2003.” International Security 28.1 (Summer 2003): 110–141.

    DOI: 10.1162/016228803322427992Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of ten episodes where the United States contemplated, threatened, or used military force; shows that women are less supportive than men of the use of force, especially if casualties are likely, but are more supportive of military deployments for humanitarian purposes.

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  • Fite, David, Marc Genest, and Clyde Wilcox. “Gender Differences in Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Longitudinal Analysis.” American Politics Research 18.4 (October 1990): 492–513.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X9001800406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gender is found to be one of the strongest demographic correlates of foreign policy attitudes in the USA, especially among younger Americans; over time, the gender differences have gone beyond issues of the use of force to encompass foreign policy tools and goals more generally, though the differences remain modest.

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  • Gidengil, Elisabeth. “Economic Man, Social Woman? The Case of the Gender Gap in Support for the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.” Comparative Political Studies 28.3 (October 1995): 384–408.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414095028003003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on Carol Gilligan’s work to argue that the free trade gender gap is rooted in differences in fundamental values and concerns: women’s opinions were shaped by their commitment to the welfare state and their greater concern for social programs whereas economic considerations weighed more heavily in men’s opinions.

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  • Nelsen, Brent F., and James L. Guth. “Exploring the Gender Gap: Women, Men and Public Attitudes toward European Integration.” European Union Politics 1.3 (October 2000): 267–291.

    DOI: 10.1177/1465116500001003001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Women prove to be more skeptical of integration than men, though the male-female differences are only statistically significant in five of the sixteen countries studied. Knowledge about the EU and economic vulnerability matter more for women’s attitudes whereas political interest, ideology, traditionalist values and class status matter more for men.

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  • Togeby, Lise. “The Gender Gap in Foreign Policy Attitudes.” Journal of Peace Research 31.4 (November 1994): 375–392.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343394031004002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds no support for explanations that attribute Danish women’s left-wing foreign policy attitudes to a more distant relation to foreign policy or distinctive values associated with mothering; cross-nationally the salience of foreign policy and women’s political mobilization are likely to be critical system-level factors.

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  • Wilcox, Clyde, Lara Hewitt and Dee Allsop. “The Gender Gap in Attitudes toward the Gulf War: A Cross-national Perspective.” Journal of Peace Research 33.1 (February 1996): 67–82.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343396033001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey data from seven industrialized democracies gathered before the first Gulf War reveal that women in every country are less supportive of military action despite being equally supportive of the stated goals of that action, expressing similar affect toward the major actors, and agreeing on the interpretation of events.

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Gender and Party Preference

Male-female differences in party identification and vote choice are the most visible manifestations of the impact of gender. The gender gap in voting in the USA first attracted attention in the wake of the 1980 presidential election when women proved much less likely than men to vote Republican. Note, however, that this gender gap had actually first appeared in the 1964 presidential election. Attempts to explain the gap focused on reasons why women would prefer the Democrats to the Republicans. However, it subsequently became apparent that the gender gaps owed as much (if not more) to the changing behavior of men.

Female-Centered Explanations of the Gender Gap in Party Preference

Manza and Brooks 1998 offers a sociological explanation that emphasizes the role of women’s participation in the paid workforce. Carroll 1988 develops an influential argument about the impact of women’s enhanced autonomy on voting patterns. Chaney, et al. 1998 serves as a good introduction to social-psychological explanations that emphasize socialized differences in fundamental values. Box-Steffensmeier, et al. 2004 brings in the economic context, focusing on the feminization of poverty. Iversen and Rosenbluth 2006 is a contribution from political economy that emphasizes power dynamics within the family. Studlar, et al. 1998 shows that the factors that contribute to the gender gap in the USA are not necessarily having the same effect in other established democracies.

  • Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Suzanna De Boef, and Tse-Min Lin. “The Dynamics of the Partisan Gender Gap.” American Political Science Review 98.3 (August 2004): 515–528.

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    Using a time-series approach, this article shows that gender differences in party identification are the product of a deteriorating economy, women’s growing economic vulnerability, the increase in female-headed households, and an increasingly conservative political climate.

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  • Carroll, Susan J. “Women’s Autonomy and the Gender Gap: 1980 and 1982.” In The Politics of the Gender Gap. Edited by Carol M. Mueller, 236–257. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1988.

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    The gender gap is attributed to the role of increased education, later marriage, a growing divorce rate, and movement into the paid work force in giving women the economic independence from men and psychological independence from traditional sex-role socialization required to express their gender-related interests in their choice of party.

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  • Chaney, Carole Kennedy, Michael R. Alvarez, and Jonathan Nagler. “Explaining the Gender Gap in U.S. Presidential Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 51.2 (June 1998): 311–339.

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    Results support the social-psychological theory that attributes the gender gap to women’s socialized compassion and aversion to use of force: gender differences in policy preferences (especially with respect to social programs) explain much of the voting gap, and women attach more importance to national economic conditions than personal financial circumstances.

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  • Iversen, Torben, and Frances Rosenbluth. “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-national Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 50.1 (January 2006): 1–19.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00166.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A political economy approach is adopted to understanding differences in left party support and support for public sector employment: in countries where family work is partly socialized women have more opportunities to work outside the home, which increases their bargaining power within the household as well as their exit options.

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  • Manza, Jeff, and Clem Brooks. “The Gender Gap in U.S. Presidential Elections: When? Why? Implications?” American Journal of Sociology 103.5 (March 1998): 1235–1266.

    DOI: 10.1086/231352Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using survey data for presidential elections from 1952 to 1992, concludes that the emergence of the gender gap in presidential voting can be explained by women’s changing rates of labor force participation; attitudes toward social service spending mediate the interrelationship between women’s labor force participation and their vote choice.

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  • Studlar, Donley T., Ian McAllister, and Bernadette C. Hayes. “Explaining the Gender Gap in Voting: A Cross-national Analysis.” Social Science Quarterly 79.4 (December 1998): 779–798.

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    Shows that the explanation for gender gaps in voting varies across countries: structural and situational factors help to explain the gaps in Australia and Britain; but in the USA gender differences in economic evaluations and attitudes toward government spending on poverty have to be taken into account as well.

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Re-interpreting the Gender Gap in Party Preference

Wirls 1986 is an early contribution that recognized the role of men’s changing behavior in producing a gender gap in presidential voting. Kaufmann and Petrocik 1999 and Norrander 1999 were the first of the subsequent studies to pick up on this key point and consider possible reasons for men’s shift to the Republican Party. Kaufmann 2002 offers the best-developed explanation for men’s changing electoral behavior.

  • Kaufmann, Karen M. “Culture Wars, Secular Realignment, and the Gender Gap in Party Identification.” Political Behavior 24.3 (September 2002): 283–307.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1021824624892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The gender gap in party identification is attributed to the heightened salience of cultural issues that threaten men’s traditional dominance: reproductive rights, women’s rights and gay rights have become more important determinants of women’s party identification while influencing men’s party identification indirectly via their views on social welfare policy.

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  • Kaufmann, Karen M., and John R. Petrocik. “The Changing Politics of American Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 43.3 (July 1999): 864–887.

    DOI: 10.2307/2991838Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that the gender gaps in partisanship and presidential voting emerged in the mid-1960s as men changed parties. The gaps are attributed to attitudinal differences (Attitude Hypothesis) and to differential weighting of policy attitudes (Salience Hypothesis) when choosing a party. Differences in social welfare attitudes are shown to be critical.

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  • Norrander, Barbara. “The Evolution of the Gender Gap.” Public Opinion Quarterly 63.4 (Winter 1999): 566–576.

    DOI: 10.1086/297871Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that the gender gap in party preference first began to emerge in the Deep South in the 1960s and was driven not by women’s attraction to the Democratic Party but by the movement of white men—especially southern white men—away from the Democratic Party and toward the Republican Party.

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  • Wirls, Daniel. “Reinterpreting the Gender Gap.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50.3 (Autumn 1986): 316–330.

    DOI: 10.1086/268986Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contradicted the conventional wisdom about the gender gap in voting by demonstrating that the gap was produced not by women moving away from the Republican Party but by unequal rates of defection from the Democratic Party as more men than women moved toward the Republicans.

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Gender and Descriptive Representation

Descriptive representation is a function of the extent to which elected representatives resemble those whom they represent. It is achieved when the composition of a legislature mirrors that of the electorate. The identification of gender gaps in policy preferences has spurred an interest in the level of women’s representation in national and sub-national legislatures. Numerous studies have sought to identify the factors that could explain why legislatures are not gender balanced. Much of this work has focused on possible voter bias as well as institutional and other barriers to women’s representation. Wängnerud 2009 and Paxton, et al. 2007 are two useful overviews of the literature on descriptive representation. Both articles summarize research on the various factors that may limit women’s access to elected office and highlight possible avenues for future research. Paxton, et al. 2007 also includes a useful discussion of research on the reasons why women are less likely than men to run for office.

  • Paxton, Pamela, Sheri Kunovich, and Melanie M. Hughes. “Gender in Politics.” Annual Review of Sociology 33 (2007): 263–284.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Another useful review that covers supply-side explanations, focusing on gender socialization and the availability of financial and human capital, and demand-side explanations focusing on the electoral system, gender quotas, incumbency, and political parties, as well as cultural explanations and international influences. Concludes with valuable suggestions for advancing this research agenda.

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  • Wängnerud, Lena. “Women in Parliaments: Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Annual Review of Political Science 12.1 (June 2009): 51–69.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053106.123839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a useful and fairly up-to-date review of research on cross-national differences in the level of women’s representation in national legislatures in established Western democracies, covering macro-, meso- and micro-level factors.

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Gender and Electability

The literature on voters’ attitudes toward female candidates presents conflicting findings. Experimental studies and survey-based studies of hypothetical or generic candidates strongly suggest that voters engage in gender stereotyping especially if other information is lacking whereas survey-based studies of actual candidates in real-world elections have found little evidence of voter bias. In an actual election, the candidate’s party is typically more important than her gender.

Experimental Studies of Gender Stereotypes

Ekstrand and Eckert 1981 was one of the first studies of voter bias to use an experimental design. Sapiro 1981–1982 uses an ingenious experimental design that takes an actual speech made by a US senator as the basis for the manipulation, some participants being told that the speech was delivered by a woman and others that the speaker was a man. Huddy and Terkildsen 1993a and Huddy and Terkildsen 1993b are two influential experimental studies, highlighting the use of gender trait stereotypes and gender-stereotyped issue competencies in evaluating candidates. Kahn 1996 presents the author’s earlier studies of gender role stereotyping while drawing attention to the role of candidates’ self-presentation in reinforcing these stereotypes. Leeper 1991 led to the belief that a female candidate can “act tough” without jeopardizing her advantage on stereotypically feminine issues and traits. Rosenwasser and Dean 1989 highlights the ways in which gender stereotyping might affect a woman’s candidacy for high political office.

  • Ekstrand, Laurie E., and William A. Eckert. “The Impact of Candidate’s Sex on Voter Choice.” Western Political Quarterly 34.1 (March 1981): 78–87.

    DOI: 10.2307/447891Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This simulated gubernatorial election found that the candidate’s sex did not have a significant effect on vote choice overall, but female participants exhibited a bias in favor of a liberal-leaning female candidate and against a conservative-leaning one whereas men did not use the candidate’s sex as a voting cue.

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  • Huddy, Leonie, and Nayda Terkildsen. “Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates.” American Journal of Political Science 37.1 (February 1993a): 119–147.

    DOI: 10.2307/2111526Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that voters’ tendency to ascribe different issue competencies to female and male candidates reflects gender stereotypes about women’s and men’s personality traits.

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  • Huddy, Leonie, and Nayda Terkildsen. “The Consequences of Gender Stereotypes for Women Candidates at Different Levels and Types of Office.” Political Research Quarterly 46.3 (September 1993b): 503–525.

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    Finds that stereotypically masculine personality traits are viewed as critical for candidates seeking national office, but stereotypically feminine traits do not appear to be a liability.

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  • Kahn, Kim Fridkin. The Political Consequences of Being a Woman: How Stereotypes Influence the Conduct and Consequences of Political Campaigns. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

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    Presents an in-depth examination of the impact of gender role stereotyping on the electability of female candidates for senate and governor. Shows that male and female candidates tend to focus on their gender-stereotyped issue competencies and personality traits and voters turn to gender stereotypes when other information is lacking.

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  • Leeper, Mark Stephen. “The Impact of Prejudice on Female Candidates: An Experimental Look at Voter Inference.” American Politics Quarterly 19.2 (April 1991): 248–261.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X9101900206Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that voters will infer that a female candidate possesses stereotypically feminine traits and issue competencies even when she takes tough positions on issues such as crime and the economy. Concludes that the optimal strategy for female candidates is to emphasize stereotypically masculine traits.

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  • Rosenwasser, Shirley Miller, and Norma G. Dean. “Gender Role and Political Office: Effects of Perceived Masculinity/Femininity of Candidate and Political Office.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 13.1 (March 1989): 77–85.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1989.tb00986.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that female candidates are rated higher on stereotypically feminine tasks but that these tasks are rated as being less important presidential tasks than stereotypically masculine ones.

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  • Sapiro, Virgina. “If U.S. Senator Baker Were a Woman: An Experimental Study of Candidates’ Images.” Political Psychology 3.1–2 (Spring–Summer 1981–1982): 61–83.

    DOI: 10.2307/3791285Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that the candidate’s sex only has a significant effect on perceived competence for issues that are not mentioned in the speech and that are traditionally considered appropriate for women such as health, education, and integrity in government. Concludes that a candidate’s sex only influences evaluations when other information is lacking.

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Survey-Based Studies of Gender Bias

Hedlund, et al. 1979 is an early study that focuses on voters’ attitudes toward female candidates and willingness to vote for a woman. Dolan 2010 is a recent study that explicitly tests for the impact of gender stereotyping on willingness to vote for a woman while Sanbonmatsu 2002 examines the impact of gender stereotyping on voting for hypothetical candidates. Koch 2000 looks at the extent of gender stereotyping of real-world candidates’ ideological leanings. Sanbonmatsu and Dolan 2009 and Hayes 2011 both look at the intersection of gender and party stereotypes. While Sanbonmatsu and Dolan 2009 finds that the presence of party cues does not preclude the use of gender stereotypes when voters evaluate generic candidates’ issue competencies, Hayes 2011 shows that party stereotypes are more powerful than gender stereotypes in perceptions of the personality traits of real-world candidates. Alexander and Anderson 1993 finds that voters do not ascribe stereotypical traits and issue competencies to actual candidates. Black and Erickson 2003 shows that female candidates may actually enjoy a small vote advantage, other things being equal.

  • Alexander, Deborah, and Kristi Anderson. “Gender as a Factor in the Attribution of Leadership Traits.” Political Research Quarterly 46.3 (September 1993): 527–545.

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    A survey-based study showing that voters’ tendency to attribute somewhat different issue competencies, capabilities, and traits to male and female candidates only applies to hypothetical candidates. When voters were queried about actual candidates in a real-world campaign, there was little evidence of gender stereotyping.

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  • Black, Jerome H., and Lynda Erickson. “Women Candidates and Voter Bias: Do Women Politicians Need to Be Better?” Electoral Studies 22.1 (March 2003): 81–100.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0261-3794(01)00028-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using Canadian data, this study finds no evidence that women have to be better qualified than their male counterparts in order to win. On the contrary, even allowing for their higher qualifications, female candidates actually had a small vote advantage over their male counterparts when matched on party and competitiveness of the race.

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  • Dolan, Kathleen. “The Impact of Gender Stereotyped Evaluations on Support for Women Candidates.” Political Behavior 32.1 (March 2010): 69–88.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-009-9090-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that gender trait stereotypes have very little impact on people’s expressed support for female candidates; what do matter are stereotypes about women’s and men’s issue competencies. Concludes that female candidates are hampered by the perception that they are less competent than men in dealing with stereotypically masculine issues.

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  • Hayes, Danny. “When Gender and Party Collide: Stereotyping in Candidate Trait Attribution.” Politics and Gender 7.2 (June 2011): 133–165.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X11000055Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concludes that party stereotypes trump gender stereotypes when voters are asked to rate the personality traits of Democratic and Republican candidates in their state.

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  • Hedlund, Ronald D., Patricia K. Freeman, Keith E. Hamm, and Robert M. Stein. “The Electability of Women Candidates: The Effects of Sex Role Stereotypes.” Journal of Politics 41.2 (May 1979): 513–524.

    DOI: 10.2307/2129776Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Many respondents indicated that it would make no difference to their vote if a candidate was male or female but they were less likely to say that they would vote for the woman if she had small children.

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  • Koch, Jeffrey. “Do Citizens Apply Gender Stereotypes to Infer Candidates’ Ideological Orientations?” Journal of Politics 62.2 (May 2000): 414–429.

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    Using data from the 1988–1990–1992 Pooled Senate Election Study, this shows that candidate gender influences perceptions of a candidate’s ideological orientation, leading voters to infer that female candidates are more liberal than they are (as indicated by roll-call votes). Ideological gender stereotypes benefit Republican women but hurt their Democratic counterparts.

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  • Sanbonmatsu, Kira. “Gender Stereotypes and Vote Choice.” American Journal of Political Science 46.1 (January 2002): 20–34.

    DOI: 10.2307/3088412Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that voter gender and gender-stereotypical beliefs about traits, issue positions, and issue competencies contribute to a baseline preference for a male or a female candidate on the part of many voters. This preference affects voting for hypothetical candidates. Uncovers a gender affinity effect for women but not for men.

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  • Sanbonmatsu, Kira, and Kathleen Dolan. “Do Gender Stereotypes Transcend Party?” Political Research Quarterly 62.3 (September 2009): 485–494.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912908322416Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a survey of attitudes toward generic male and female candidates this study finds that voters attribute stereotypical issue competencies and issue positions even in the presence of party cues. Concludes that gender stereotypes are more likely to hamper the electoral prospects of Republican than Democratic women.

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Gender Affinity and Vote Choice

“Gender affinity” refers to a tendency for people to vote for members of their own sex. Plutzer and Zipp 1996 finds evidence of a gender affinity effect in US elections. However, Dolan 2008 shows that the effect in the USA is limited to female Democratic candidates. Banducci and Karp 2000 explores gender affinity effects in the other Anglo-American democracies.

  • Banducci, Susan A., and Jeffrey A. Karp. “Gender, Leadership and Choice in Multiparty Systems.” Political Research Quarterly 53.4 (December 2000): 815–848.

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    Looking at parliamentary elections, this article finds some support for the gender identity hypothesis. Women tended to give female party leaders higher ratings in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand (but not Britain) and even controlling for partisanship, were more likely than men to vote for women-led parties in Canada and New Zealand.

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  • Dolan, Kathleen. “Is There a ‘Gender Affinity Effect’ in American Politics? Information, Affect, and Candidate Sex in U.S. House Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 61.1 (March 2008): 79–89.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912907307518Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that the apparent gender affinity effect partly reflects the candidate’s party: women have more positive feelings than men toward female Democratic candidates but not toward their Republican counterparts. Also finds that both women and men know more about female candidates than male candidates.

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  • Plutzer, Eric, and John F. Zipp. “Identity Politics, Partisanship, and Voting for Women Candidates.” Public Opinion Quarterly 60.1 (1996): 30–57.

    DOI: 10.1086/297738Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using exit poll data, this study finds evidence of a relationship between sex and voting for a female candidate among both partisans and Independents in eight of fourteen states where women ran for statewide office. The relationship is strongest for Democratic candidates who are relatively feminist, especially among Independents.

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Institutional Barriers to Elected Office

A large number of studies have focused on the impact of institutional factors on women’s representation. Rule 1981 and Rule 1987 are two influential articles that stimulated a good deal of subsequent research. Rule 1981 focuses on the selection and nomination process in the USA and points to the role of the type of electoral system in explaining cross-national variation in women’s representation. Rule 1987 expands the range of institutional factors that affect the level of women’s representation across countries. Matland and Studlar 1996 is useful for understanding why the type of electoral system makes a difference. Lawless and Pearson 2008 is the first study to focus on the role of the primary process in explaining women’s underrepresentation in the US Congress. Krook 2010 provides an extensive analysis of gender quotas, which have been proposed or adopted as a way of addressing the lack of women in elected office. Focusing on the impact of both gender quotas and minority quotas on the representation of minority women in national legislatures around the world, Hughes 2011 examines whether quota policies have challenged majority male dominance of national legislatures.

  • Hughes, Melanie M. “Intersectionality, Quotas, and Minority Women’s Political Representation Worldwide.” American Political Science Review 105.3 (August 2011): 604–620.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055411000293Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on an analysis of eighty-one countries worldwide, this study finds that party gender quotas only benefit non-minority women. However, minority women are the major beneficiaries when minority quotas are adopted alongside gender quotas. Majority men’s dominance remains intact because a minority woman can satisfy both quota policies.

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  • Krook, Mona Lena. Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    The first book-length cross-national study of the adoption and impact of gender quotas. The case studies compare campaigns for the adoption of quota provisions in Argentina and France (legislative quotas), India and Pakistan (reserved seats), and Sweden and the UK (party quotas).

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  • Lawless, Jennifer L., and Kathryn Pearson. “The Primary Reason for Women’s Underrepresentation? Reevaluating the Conventional Wisdom.” Journal of Politics 70.1 (January 2008): 67–82.

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    Identifies the primary process as another reason for women’s underrepresentation in the US Congress. Based on data from 1958 to 2004, the authors find that while women candidates are as likely to win as their male counterparts, they typically face more competition in the primaries and thus have to be stronger competitors to win a primary contest.

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  • Matland, Richard E., and Donley T. Studlar. “The Contagion of Women Candidates in Single-Member District and Proportional Representation Electoral Systems: Canada and Norway.” Journal of Politics 58.3 (August 1996): 707–733.

    DOI: 10.2307/2960439Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an explanation for why the level of women’s representation in national legislatures varies across electoral systems: contagion pressures are stronger in multimember proportional electoral systems than in single member plurality systems, while party lists and greater district magnitude make it easier for parties to respond to those pressures.

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  • Rule, Wilma. “Why Women Don’t Run: The Critical Contextual Factors in Women’s Legislative Recruitment.” Political Research Quarterly 34.1 (March 1981): 60–77.

    DOI: 10.1177/106591298103400106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on an analysis of the percentage of women in state legislatures and congressional delegations in fifty US states, identifies factors relating to the selection and nomination process as critical barriers to women’s legislative recruitment. A cross-national analysis of women’s representation in nineteen countries points to a non-proportional electoral system as the most critical contextual factor.

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  • Rule, Wilma. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 40.3 (September 1987): 477–498.

    DOI: 10.2307/448386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of twenty-three democracies reveals that a party list/proportional representation electoral system, a large number of representatives per district, and a preponderance of centrist and leftist parties are all conducive to women’s representation in the national legislature. The proportion of women in the paid workforce and the percentage of college graduates are secondary factors.

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Other Barriers to Elected Office

Kenworthy and Malami 1999 and Paxton 1997 both look at the impact of social structural and cultural factors on women’s representation across countries but reach different conclusions with respect to the social structural explanation. Kenworthy and Malami 1999 finds that women’s position in the social structure is important, while Paxton 1997 does not find any significant role for social structure. Kittilson 2006 points to the usefulness of the concept of “political opportunity structure” for understanding the conditions under which women can make representational gains. Lawless and Fox 2010 is an important contribution for understanding why so few women choose to run for elected office.

  • Kenworthy, Lane, and Melissa Malami. “Gender Inequality in Political Representation: A Worldwide Comparative Analysis.” Social Forces 78.1 (September 1999): 235–268.

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    This study of variations in women’s representation across the globe points to the importance of three sets of factors: political (electoral system type, timing of women’s suffrage, and leftist parties’ seat share); socioeconomic (proportion of women in professional occupations); and cultural (attitudes toward role of women in politics).

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  • Kittilson, Miki Caul. Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments: Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.

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    Emphasizes the importance of the political and institutional opportunity structure for increasing women’s representation in parliament. The former includes the broader ideological environment and shifts in the balance of political power within and among political parties while the latter encompasses electoral system rules and internal party structures.

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  • Lawless, Jennifer L., and Richard L. Fox. It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511778797Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that much of the problem lies on the “supply side”: too few women are interested in running for elective office. Based on a US panel survey of women and men in “pipeline” professions that candidates are typically drawn from, the authors explore how gender influences political ambition.

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  • Paxton, Pamela. “Women in National Legislatures: A Cross-national Analysis.” Social Science Research 26.4 (December 1997): 442–464.

    DOI: 10.1006/ssre.1997.0603Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds no significant association between women’s position in the social structure and their representation in national legislatures around the world, pointing instead to the importance of political and ideological variables.

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Gender and Substantive Representation

Substantive representation focuses on what elected representatives do and not simply who they are (“descriptive representation”). It is defined as acting in the interest of the represented. The literature on gender and substantive representation examines whether female representatives act for women and whether their presence in the legislature has an impact on policy outcomes. Much of the early work focused on state legislatures in the USA, but as more women have been elected to the US Congress, research has been expanded to include the behavior of women in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, as well as other national legislatures. To determine whether women make a difference to public policy, research has focused on whether a certain minimum level of representation in the legislature (a “critical mass”) is required to make a difference and whether male and female legislators have different issue priorities, vote differently on legislation, introduce different types of bills, and differ in their effectiveness in getting their bills enacted.

The Critical Mass Debate

The concept of a “critical mass” was introduced to the study of substantive representation by Dahlerup 1988. Borrowed from the management literature, it refers to the notion of a tipping point (typically defined as around 30 percent) at which women’s presence in an organization makes a difference. Its usefulness has been debated in the literature on substantive representation. Dahlerup 1988 argues that “critical acts” is a more useful notion, while Bratton 2005 shows that women can make a difference even when their numbers fall well below the 30 percent threshold. Childs and Krook 2006 offers a useful review of the reasons for skepticism about the value of critical mass theory. This study also serves as good introduction to the larger literature on substantive representation. Studlar and McAllister 2002 is a cross-national assessment of the argument that the achievement of a critical mass causes women’s representational gains to accelerate. Bratton and Ray 2002 and Schwindt-Bayer and Mishler 2005 are empirical studies of policy outcomes that provide some evidence of a critical mass effect.

  • Bratton, Kathleen A. “Critical Mass Theory Revisited: The Behavior and Success of Token Women in State Legislatures.” Politics and Gender 1.1 (March 2005): 97–125.

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    Based on an analysis of three US state legislatures where women constitute less than 15 percent of members, this study concludes that substantive representation does not require a critical mass: the women’s token status does not constrain their sponsorship of legislation relating to women’s interests nor their ability to get their bills passed.

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  • Bratton, Kathleen A., and Leonard P. Ray. “Descriptive Representation, Policy Outcomes, and Municipal Day-care Coverage in Norway.” American Journal of Political Science 46.2 (April 2002): 428–437.

    DOI: 10.2307/3088386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This longitudinal study of the relationship between women’s representation on municipal councils and the provision of child-care provides empirical support for the notion of a critical mass.

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  • Childs, Sarah, and Mona Lena Krook. “Should Feminists Give Up on Critical Mass Theory? A Contingent Yes.” Politics and Gender 2.4 (June 2006): 522–530.

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    Provides a useful overview of research on substantive representation. Questions the usefulness of critical mass theory: reaching some threshold level of female representation does not mean that women-friendly policies will automatically follow.

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  • Dahlerup, Drude. “From a Small to a Large Minority: Women in Scandinavian Politics.” Scandinavian Political Studies 11.4 (December 1988): 275–298.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9477.1988.tb00372.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the concept of “critical acts” is more useful than the concept of a “critical mass”: as a minority, women must be willing and able to mobilize organizational and institutional resources to recruit other women, introduce quotas, and create agencies that institutionalize gender equality policies.

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and William Mishler. “An Integrated Model of Women’s Representation.” Journal of Politics 67.2 (May 2005): 407–428.

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    The finding of a non-linear relationship between women’s representation and responsiveness to women’s policy concerns across thirty-one democracies lends support to the idea that a critical mass is needed to achieve significant gains in policy responsiveness.

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  • Studlar, Donley T., and Ian McAllister. “Does a Critical Mass Exist? A Comparative Analysis of Women’s Legislative Representation since 1950.” European Journal of Political Research 41.2 (March 2002): 233–253.

    DOI: 10.1111/1475-6765.00011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of the lower houses of twenty industrialized democracies showing that the attainment of a critical mass does not cause female representation to “take off.” The key factors are a party list electoral system and early enfranchisement; voter turnout and party system competitiveness have a negative effect.

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Gender Differences in Legislators’ Policy Attitudes

The expectation that women’s representational gains will influence policy outcomes presupposes that female legislators will bring different policy priorities and preferences to bear. Lovenduski and Norris 2003 provides evidence of this in the case of Britain, while Poggione 2004 does the same for US legislators.

  • Lovenduski, Joni, and Pippa Norris. “Westminster Women: The Politics of Presence.” Political Studies 51.1 (March 2003): 84–102.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.00414Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A survey of parliamentary candidates and elected members of parliament conducted in the 2001 British general election shows that even controlling for political party and other social background characteristics, women and men have significantly different attitudes toward affirmative action and gender equality but not on other value dimensions.

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  • Poggione, Sarah. “Exploring Gender Differences in State Legislators’ Policy Preferences.” Political Research Quarterly 57.2 (June 2004): 305–314.

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    Based on a mail survey of legislators in twenty-four states, finds that constituency interests do not explain why female legislators express significantly more liberal attitudes toward welfare policy than do male legislators. The average female Republican legislator proves to be almost as liberal as her Democratic counterpart.

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Gender Differences in Legislators’ Behavior

Research on gender and substantive representation has paid a good deal of attention to possible differences in the behavior of female legislators with respect to such activities as introducing and/or co-sponsoring bills, setting priorities, roll-call voting, committee work, and giving speeches on the floor. Thomas 1994 serves as an excellent introduction to research on the effects of the presence of women on the way that state legislatures conducted their business in the 1970s and 1980s. While this study suggests that women legislators became more integrated into state legislatures as their numbers increased, Kathlene 1994 offers a less sanguine assessment, at least with respect to committee hearings. Given the ability of legislative leaders to influence which issues get addressed (through powers such as determining committee memberships, assigning bills to committees, controlling the floor calendar, and recognizing speakers), other studies have focused on women occupying key leadership positions. Little, et al. 2001 examines whether women bring a different issue agenda to leadership positions in state legislatures and, more particularly, whether they support a female-friendly agenda. Vega and Firestone 1995 analyzes the impact of gender on the introduction of legislation and voting patterns in the US House of Representatives. However, Schwindt-Bayer and Corbetta 2004 challenges findings that gender influences roll-call voting behavior in a liberal direction. Swers 1998 focuses more narrowly on voting on women-related bills and finds evidence of voting cohesiveness. Osborn and Mendez 2010 takes a different approach to examining women’s legislative behavior by analyzing the number and content of speeches on the senate floor.

  • Kathlene, Lyn. “Power and Influence in State Legislative Policymaking: The Interaction of Gender and Position in Committee Hearing Debates.” American Political Science Review 88.3 (September 1994): 560–576.

    DOI: 10.2307/2944795Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of speaking behavior in state legislative committee hearings suggesting that women legislators may be seriously disadvantaged as a result of the verbally aggressive and controlling behavior of male committee members. The results showed that women spoke less frequently and interrupted witnesses less often.

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  • Little, Thomas H., Dana Dunn, and Rebecca E. Deen. “A View from the Top: Gender Differences in Legislative Priorities among State Legislative Leaders.” Women and Politics 22.4 (2001): 29–50.

    DOI: 10.1300/J014v22n04_02Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that women occupying key leadership positions in state legislatures have distinct legislative agendas; they are more likely than their male counterparts to prioritize issues such as health care and social services over taxes and budgetary issues.

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  • Osborn, Tracy, and Jeanette Morehouse Mendez. “Speaking as Women: Women and Floor Speeches in the Senate.” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy 31.1 (2010): 1–21.

    DOI: 10.1080/15544770903501384Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A content analysis of floor speeches in the 106th Senate (1999–2000) showing that women senators give fewer speeches than their male counterparts but devote a larger proportion of their speeches to health and family issues. However, the women are not very different when it comes to other traditional women’s issues.

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and Renato Corbetta. “Gender Turnover and Roll-call Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 29.2 (May 2004): 215–229.

    DOI: 10.3162/036298004X201159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence that once constituency influences are taken into account, female representatives are no more liberal in their roll-call voting than their male counterparts. The apparent liberalness of female representatives’ roll-call voting is attributed to the fact that women tend to be elected in more liberal districts.

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  • Swers, Michele L. “Are Women More Likely to Vote for Women’s Issue Bills than Their Male Colleagues?” Legislative Studies Quarterly 23.3 (August 1998): 435–448.

    DOI: 10.2307/440362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of the voting records of all representatives in the 103rd Congress showing that the more directly an issue affects women (such as abortion, women’s health, and violence against women), the greater the propensity of congresswomen to cross party lines and vote together.

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  • Thomas, Sue. How Women Legislate. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    Focusing on state legislatures in the 1970s and 1980s, this comprehensive study documents how women came to play a more active part in legislative activities as their presence increased and highlights their growing assertiveness in putting issues related to children, women, and families on the policy agenda.

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  • Vega, Arturo, and Juanita M. Firestone. “The Effects of Gender on Congressional Behavior and the Substantive Representation of Women.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 20.2 (May 1995): 213–222.

    DOI: 10.2307/440448Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looking at voting patterns in the US House of Representatives from 1981 to 1992, finds female members consistently exhibited more liberal voting behaviors than male members, though the differences were relatively small. Also shows that the women were increasingly sponsoring women-related legislation.

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The Impact on Policy Outcomes

The “bottom-line” question with respect to substantive legislation is whether the presence of women does in fact make a difference to legislative outputs. Wängnerud 2009 is a good starting point, providing an extensive review of the literature. Thomas 1991 provides an early demonstration of an impact on policy while also highlighting conditions that are conducive to a policy impact. Bratton and Ray 2002 offers a longitudinal assessment within a single country, while Schwindt-Bayer and Mishler 2005 provides a cross-national analysis. Diaz 2006 focuses on the impact of female legislators in European countries. Swers 2002 provides an equally extensive analysis of the impact of female members in the US House of Representatives.

  • Bratton, Kathleen A., and Leonard P. Ray. “Descriptive Representation, Policy Outcomes, and Municipal Day-care Coverage in Norway.” American Journal of Political Science 46.2 (April 2002): 428–437.

    DOI: 10.2307/3088386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that descriptive representation can influence public policy outcomes, at least in the early stages of the policy life cycle. Uncovers no evidence of a backlash effect, whereby resistance to women’s interests emerges as the proportion of women increases.

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  • Diaz, Mercedes Mateo. Representing Women? Female Legislators in West European Parliaments. Colchester, UK: ECPR, 2005.

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    An extensive analysis of the impact of the number of women in national parliaments on political outcomes in fifteen member states of the European Union based on official records and documents as well as in-depth interviews and the Members of National Parliaments Survey.

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and William Mishler. “An Integrated Model of Women’s Representation.” Journal of Politics 67.2 (May 2005): 407–428.

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    Using data from thirty-one democracies in the mid-1990s, this study shows that greater descriptive representation tends to translate into greater responsiveness to women’s policy concerns, though the relationship is not linear.

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  • Swers, Michele L. The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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    A comprehensive study of the influence of gender on policymaking, based on both a quantitative analysis of bills and interviews with members of the US House of Representatives and their staffs during the 103rd and 104th congresses.

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  • Thomas, Sue. “The Impact of Women on State Legislative Policies.” Journal of Politics 53.4 (November 1991): 958–976.

    DOI: 10.2307/2131862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of twelve states finds that female legislators are more likely than male legislators to introduce and secure the passage of legislation dealing with women, children, and families, especially if they enjoy support in the form of a high proportion of female colleagues and/or a formal women’s legislative caucus.

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  • Wängnerud, Lena. “Women in Parliaments: Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Annual Review of Political Science 12 (2009): 51–69.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053106.123839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews research on substantive representation in established democracies and highlights challenges in researching the effects of women’s presence in parliament.

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Gender and Media Representations

Gendered patterns of media coverage have been identified as hindering women’s representation. The early studies of gender differences in coverage focused on the amount and kind of coverage that women received. These studies typically showed that their coverage tended to be more negative in tone, focusing disproportionately on their viability while framing their issue competencies and/or personality traits in stereotypically feminine terms. Subsequent work shows that coverage has become more balanced in terms of both the quantity and the tone of coverage. Consequently, the focus has shifted to an examination of the frames used in news coverage of female candidates and elected politicians. These studies have documented the frequent use of feminine stereotypes in reporting on the women. Some of the most recent work has shifted attention to analyzing the implications of masculine news frames for women’s coverage.

Coverage of Candidates

Kahn 1996 draws together much of the author’s pioneering research on gendered patterns of press coverage. Smith 1997 is an update of some of Kahn’s research. The study shows that some of the patterns identified by Kahn in the 1980s were disappearing in the 1990s. This finding is confirmed by the updated analysis in Jalalzai 2006. Bystrom, et al. 2001 draws attention to the framing of female candidates in stereotypically feminine ways while Kittilson and Fridkin 2008 highlights the emphasis on gender-stereotyped traits and issue competencies in women’s coverage in Australia and Canada as well as the USA. Kahn 1993 serves as an important reminder of the need to take account of how female candidates choose to present themselves when assessing the extent of gender bias in the media.

  • Bystrom, Dianne G., Terry A. Robertson, and Mary Christine Banwart. “Framing the Fight: An Analysis of Media Coverage of Female and Male Candidates in Primary Races for Governor and U.S. Senate in 2000.” American Behavioral Scientist 44.12 (August 2001): 1999–2013.

    DOI: 10.1177/00027640121958456Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that female candidates were not disadvantaged with respect to the amount of press coverage they received, the tone of their coverage, or an undue focus on their viability, but biases persist in the form of a disproportionate emphasis on the women’s sex, children, and marital status.

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  • Jalalzai, Farida. “Women Candidates and the Media: 1992–2000 Elections.” Politics and Policy 34.3 (September 2006): 606–633.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-1346.2006.00030.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Confirms that press coverage of gubernatorial and senatorial candidates was more gender-balanced in elections held between 1992 and 2000; while some differences continued to disadvantage women, others worked in their favor.

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  • Kahn, Kim Fridkin. “Gender Differences in Campaign Messages: The Political Advertisements of Men and Women Candidates for U.S. Senate.” Political Research Quarterly 46.3 (September 1993): 481–502.

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    Adds an important element by focusing on candidates’ self-presentation. Finds that female candidates’ television advertisements tend to focus on stereotypically feminine policy strengths such as education and health policy.

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  • Kahn, Kim Fridkin. The Political Consequences of Being a Woman: How Stereotypes Influence the Conduct and Consequences of Political Campaigns. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

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    An in-depth study of gendered patterns of press coverage of statewide races in the 1980s, highlighting disparities in the amount of coverage the female candidates received, the tone of their coverage, and a focus on their viability at the expense of their issue positions.

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  • Kittilson, Miki Caul, and Kim Fridkin. “Gender, Candidate Portrayals and Election Campaigns: A Comparative Perspective.” Politics and Gender 4.3 (September 2008): 371–392.

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    A comparison of newspaper coverage showing that gender-stereotyped issue and trait coverage is prevalent in Australia, Canada, and the USA despite institutional differences and differences in women’s representation. Yet finds no evidence of gender biases in the quantity and tone of coverage or attention to the candidates’ viability and family.

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  • Smith, Kevin B. “When All’s Fair: Signs of Parity in Media Coverage of Female Candidates.” Political Communication 14.1 (1997): 71–82.

    DOI: 10.1080/105846097199542Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of press coverage of statewide campaigns in 1994 finds less evidence of gender-based patterns of coverage than studies conducted pre-1990 in terms of both the quantity and the quality of coverage and shows that female candidates received less negative coverage than their male counterparts.

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Coverage of High-Profile Women

Studies of media coverage have been hampered by the lack of high-profile female candidacies. Heldman, et al. 2005 and Aday and Devitt 2001 took advantage of Elizabeth Dole’s presidential bid to compare her coverage with that of male contenders for the Republican nomination. Both studies highlight the disproportionate attention paid to her personality but reach somewhat different conclusions about the amount of coverage she received relative to the men. The 2008 presidential election featured two high-profile female candidacies. Carlin and Winfrey 2009 analyzes coverage of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential primary campaign, while Wasburn and Wasburn 2011 focuses on Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Both studies document the use of gendered frames. Mavin, et al. 2010 extends this research to two prominent female politicians in the UK.

  • Aday, Sean, and James Devitt. “Style over Substance: Newspaper Coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s Presidential Bid.” Harvard International Journal of Press/ Politics 6.2 (March 2001): 52–73.

    DOI: 10.1177/108118001129172134Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Confirms that Dole received more coverage of her personal traits; but also finds that Dole ranked second in terms of the amount of press coverage. In addition, this study finds that her speech was paraphrased more often than the men’s and that she was directly quoted less often.

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  • Carlin, Diana B., and Kelly L. Winfrey. “Have You Come a Long Way, Baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008 Campaign Coverage.” Communication Studies 60.4 (September–October 2009): 326–343.

    DOI: 10.1080/10510970903109904Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A qualitative analysis of media coverage that highlights the use of gendered language and gender stereotypes in media portrayals of the two candidates.

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  • Heldman, Caroline, Susan J. Carroll, and Stephanie Olson. “‘She Brought Only a Skirt’: Print Media Coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s Bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination.” Political Communication 22.3 (July–September 2005): 315–335.

    DOI: 10.1080/10584600591006564Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comparison of print coverage received by Elizabeth Dole and five male contenders showing that Dole received less coverage, less in-depth coverage, and more negative viability coverage than her number-two standing in the polls would predict. Also found that her coverage focused disproportionately on her personality and appearance.

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  • Mavin, Sharon, Patricia Bryans, Rosie Cunningham. “Fed-up with Blair’s Babes, Gordon’s Gals, Cameron’s Cuties, Nick’s Nymphets: Challenging Gendered Media Representations of Women Political Leaders.” Gender in Management: An International Journal 25.7 (2010): 550–569.

    DOI: 10.1108/17542411011081365Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This qualitative analysis of UK newspapers, government websites, and the Internet indicates that gendered constructions of women political leaders are not just a US phenomenon.

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  • Wasburn, Philo C., and Mara H. Wasburn. “Media Coverage of Women in Politics: The Curious Case of Sarah Palin.” Media, Culture and Society 33.7 (October 2011): 1027–1041.

    DOI: 10.1177/0163443711415744Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This qualitative and quantitative analysis of coverage in Newsweek and Time reveals that Palin received considerably more coverage than her Democratic opponent; but much of that coverage objectified her by focusing on trivial topics such as her appearance and her personality.

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The Impact of Stereotypically Masculine News Frame

Sreberny-Mohammadi and Ross 1996 was the first study to focus on the use of stereotypically masculine frames in covering female politicians. Gidengil and Everitt 2003 builds on this study by analyzing the implications of the construction of politics in stereotypically masculine terms for the reporting of female politicians’ speech. This study is one of the very few to focus on television as opposed to press coverage.

  • Gidengil, Elisabeth, and Joanna Everitt. “Talking Tough: Gender and Reported Speech in Campaign News Coverage.” Political Communication 20.3 (July–September 2003): 209–232.

    DOI: 10.1080/10584600390218869Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Switches the focus from the use of feminine stereotypes to the implications of stereotypically masculine news frames for television news coverage of female party leaders in Canada: in line with the notion of “gendered mediation,” the women’s speech was reported using more negative and aggressive language than their male counterparts’ speech.

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  • Sreberny-Mohammadi, Annabelle, and Karen Ross. “Women MPs and the Media: Representing the Body Politic.” Parliamentary Affairs 49.1 (1996): 103–115.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.pa.a028661Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines female MPs’ experiences and perceptions of media coverage in the UK and explores the implications of the masculine imagery and language that dominates news coverage of politics (or what has come to be known as “gendered mediation”).

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