Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Social Sciences/Psychology/Economics
Sydney Carr - University of Connecticut
Co-Author(s): Corwin Smidt, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Historically, women have been severely underrepresented in elective positions in the U.S., displaying a critical gender gap in political office. The question herein lies; are women not running for political office because they do not see themselves as viable political candidates or is it because they are not receiving the needed support from the public? It can be argued perhaps that if there is reason to believe that the latter is true, then the demographic variables of the public themselves can account for this. This study takes on a longitudinal analysis from the 1970s to present to examine the demographic factors that correspond to public support for female candidates for political office. Kathleen Dolan’s 2009 article entitled ‘The Impact of Gender Stereotyped Evaluations on Support for Women Candidates’ speaks to the influence that gender stereotypes have on voter behavior. Typically, voters associate female candidates with certain characteristics and these characteristics point to their willingness to vote for them. This study will examine if the underrepresentation of women in political office is due to the lack of needed public support. Women in the 21st century are increasingly entering careers in the professional arena, however they are still entering the political sphere in low numbers. To understand this critical issue, this study examines whether public perceptions and stereotypes toward female candidates have an influential impact on their political visibility. It can further be argued that the demographic variables of the electorate themselves have a key impact on their perceptions toward female candidates and subsequently the number of women entering political office. This study takes on a descriptive statistics analysis through the use of General Social Survey data. This was done in order to measure participants’ answers to a set of 4 survey questions regarding support for female political candidates and gender roles. The 4 survey questions that were measured engage ideas on women’s roles in the home and in the workplace. The demographic variables of the participants themselves have been measured including but not limited to race, gender, age, level of education, and level of income. These demographic predictors were examined across four decades ranging from the 1970s-2000s. It can be inferred how likely a certain demographic group would be to vote for a female political candidate based on their answers to each of the 4 questions. By conducting this study longitudinally, it can be determined how and why public support for female candidates has changed over the years. Some of the preliminary findings of this study are that 3 demographic variables in particular can be associated with voter behavior toward female political candidates- age, education level, and marital status. By understanding perceptions and stereotypes toward female political candidates, this can present important research on why the gender gap between men and women in electoral politics exists. Ultimately, the goal of this study is to determine levels of support for female candidates in the U.S. by conducting a regional analysis across the 50 states. The predicted outcome of this study is that by measuring public support for female candidates on a state by state basis, it can determined what states are the most/least supportive of female political candidates.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): SROP (Summer Research Opportunities) Michigan State University
Faculty Advisor: Corwin Smidt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: For this study, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant under Corwin Smidt. My main role was to conduct a descriptive statistics analysis by examining the Gallup Survey Data. I specifically analyzed each of the 4 questions from the Gallup Survey database according to each different demographic variable. I then compared the differences in the answers to the questions based on each demographic category. I also compared the differences within the demographic groups across the 4 decades. This allowed me to analyze how answers to these questions changed over time. After analyzing this information, I complied the data into an Excel spreadsheet by creating tables and graphs according to each separate demographic category. This allowed me to conduct the descriptive statistics analysis.