In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Stereotypes in Political Reasoning

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Stereotype Measurement
  • LGBT Stereotypes
  • Stereotypes of Other Groups

Political Science Stereotypes in Political Reasoning
Zoe M. Oxley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0258


Group-based assessments are a core ingredient of many political judgments. Characteristics such as a candidate’s political party, race, ethnicity, or gender influence voter evaluations. Opinions toward a wide range of public policies are shaped by beliefs about and affect toward policy beneficiaries. Of the many group-related attitudes that play a role in political reasoning, stereotypes are among the most important. Stereotypes are beliefs we hold about the characteristics, tendencies, and competencies of social groups. Research in psychology has demonstrated the functional role stereotypes play in helping us navigate through a complex social world, but also that stereotypes can operate automatically, are resistant to updating, and can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Academics across disciplines have grappled with how to best measure stereotypes, notably whether to use explicit or implicit measurement strategies. Despite valid concerns that explicit items might not be answered honestly, due to societal pressures, these measures continue to be common in the political science literature. As for which groups’ stereotypes have been studied, political stereotyping based on gender and race/ethnicity has received much more attention than have other characteristics, such as sexuality, religion, or class. The research has documented a decline in stereotyping in some domains, such as gender stereotyping of candidates, yet a persistence of stereotyping in others, such as the influence of racial and ethnic stereotypes on policy opinions. Scholars have also uncovered the nuanced role that stereotypic thinking can play in political judgment. Factors that influence whether stereotypes are influential include whether an actor displays stereotypic-consistent versus inconsistent behavior, the ideology of the perceiver or the target, and whether stereotypes of an ingroup or outgroups are relevant. A notable emerging line of inquiry focuses on intersectional stereotyping, or stereotyping based on multiple identities simultaneously. Significant progress has been made toward our understanding of stereotyping at the gender-race intersection, especially regarding women of color, as well as the intersecting nature of gender and party stereotypes.

General Overviews

Numerous articles, essays, and book chapters have reviewed stereotyping literatures over the years. Because overviews published relatively recently feature both foundational and more recent work on political stereotyping, this section mostly includes newer examples of useful overviews. The exceptions are Judd and Downing 1995, whose authors were among the first to document the application of social psychological studies of stereotyping to political judgments, and Fiske 1998, which comprehensively connects work on stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. More recently, Kinder 2013 and Al Ramiah and Hewstone 2013 review stereotyping research that overlaps with, respectively, prejudice and discrimination. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Political Decision Making contains many relevant articles, including Bauer 2018 on gender stereotyping, Cassese 2018 on intersectional stereotyping, and Schneider, et al. 2018 on measuring stereotypes. Also included here are a review of gender stereotyping research and measurement by Sanbonmatsu and Dolan 2012 and a chapter by Greenlee, et al. 2017 that focuses on stereotypes of mothers and motherhood.

  • Al Ramiah, Ananthi, and Miles Hewstone. “Discrimination: Conditions, Consequences, and ‘Cures.’” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. 2d ed. Edited by Leonie Huddy, David O. Sears, and Jack S. Levy, 890–922. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    The influence of stereotyping on discriminatory behavior is discussed in this chapter.

  • Bauer, Nichole. “Gender Stereotyping in Political Decision-Making.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Political Decision Making. Edited by David P. Redlawsk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    Overview of gender stereotyping in politics, especially the myriad ways that stereotyping is present during electoral campaigns.

  • Cassese, Erin C. “Intersectional Stereotyping.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Political Decision Making. Edited by David P. Redlawsk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    Reviews scholarship that explores stereotyping at the intersection of two or more categories (such as gender and sexuality), including the influence of such stereotyping on voter evaluations and public opinion. Article opens with a comprehensive review of intersectionality theory.

  • Fiske, Susan T. “Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination.” In The Handbook of Social Psychology. 4th ed. Vol. 2. Edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, 357–411. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

    Reviews social psychological research, highlighting similarities and differences among the phenomena of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.

  • Greenlee, Jill, Grace Deason, and Carrie Langner. “The Impact of Motherhood and Maternal Messages on Political Candidacies.” In The Political Psychology of Women in U.S. Politics. Edited by Angela L. Bos and Monica C. Schneider, 184–201. New York: Routledge, 2017.

    Discusses work exploring motherhood, particularly stereotypes of mothers and the use and consequences of motherhood appeals, for both female and male candidates, on the campaign trail.

  • Judd, Charles M., and James W. Downing. “Stereotypic Accuracy in Judgments of the Political Positions of Groups and Individuals.” In Political Judgment: Structure and Process. Edited by Milton Lodge and Kathleen M. McGraw, 65–89. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

    Reviews political judgments that are especially susceptible to stereotypic thinking, particularly the accuracy of relying on stereotypes to infer issue positions.

  • Kinder, Donald R. “Prejudice and Politics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. 2d ed. Edited by Leonie Huddy, David O. Sears, and Jack S. Levy, 812–851. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    Embedded in this synopsis of prejudice in the political domain is a discussion of stereotyping as a variety of prejudice.

  • Sanbonmatsu, Kira, and Kathleen Dolan. “Gender Stereotypes and Gender Preferences in American Politics.” In Improving Public Opinion Surveys: Interdisciplinary Innovation and the American National Election Studies. Edited by John H. Aldrich and Kathleen M. McGraw, 260–277. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

    This chapter reviews the gender stereotyping literature, particularly work that focuses on the electoral consequences of stereotyping. New American National Election Study survey items designed to measure gender stereotyping and related attitudes are also discussed.

  • Schneider, Monica, Angela Bos, and Heather Weiss. “Measuring Stereotypes in the Political Domain.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Political Decision Making. Edited by David P. Redlawsk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    Comprehensive review of how scholars have measured stereotype content and activation, including a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of various measurement approaches.

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