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Candidate-Gender Bias and the Partisan Gender-Gap in Office (WP-19-29)

Sara Saltzer and Mary McGrath

Female elected officials are underrepresented in the Republican Party relative to the Democratic Party. What accounts for this partisan disparity in women elected to office? The authors present evidence that registered voters exhibit a partisan gap in candidate-gender bias of a nature that would contribute to the partisan gender-gap in office-holding. Using an implicit mediation experimental design, the researchers find evidence that the partisan difference in gender preference is motivated by political inferences drawn from candidate-gender stereotypes. Both registered Democrats and registered Republicans move counter to the direction of bias when given information that reverses those stereotypes. Two important implications of the researchers’ findings are that (1) there may be a voter-driven element to the partisan gender-gap in office, but (2) Republican voters, whom they find to be as pro-female as Democratic voters when presented with a policy-congruent female candidate, are not the cause of persistently low levels of Republican women in office.

Sara Saltzer, Northwestern University

Mary McGrath, Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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