Featured New Scholarship: Gender and Political Psychology

By Meredith Conroy

As you may have seen announced this month from around the web, the current issue of Politics, Groups and Identities is a special issue, featuring scholarship on gender and political psychology. You can presently access the current issue for free, and we encourage you to do so. The special issue features seven original articles that look at political ideology and the gender gap, sex differences in intergroup anxiety related to political deliberation, political incorporation differences between latinas and latino men, sex differences in attitudes about race, Affirmative Action and voting for women, sources and effects of feminine stereotypes, and the explicit role of attitudes about women in voting for women. From this issue, I decided to feature the article “Who Stereotypes Female Candidates? Identifying Individual Differences in Feminine Stereotype Reliance,” by Nichole M. Bauer.

Subfield: Gender and Politics

Research Question: What individual level characteristics affect whether a voter relies on feminine stereotypes to evaluate women running for political office? The scholarship on the role of feminine stereotypes on women’s electoral chances is immense. More and more, the view is that public attitudes about women are changing, and that stereotypes about women as being better suited to the home are family life, have gone the way of the cassette tape (or the dodo). Yet one need only log on to Facebook, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for president, to recognize that stereotypes about women in politics persist and abound, usually to the detriment of politically ambitious women. In her article, Bauer suggests that its neither that the public has overcome stereotype reliance, or still relies on stereotypes time and time again, but instead it is more likely that certain individuals rely on stereotypes about women, while others do not. Bauer’s goal, then, is to identify the variables that lead some individuals to rely on stereotypes. Her main independent variables are attention to politics, and party identification, strength of partisanship, and voter sex. Her main dependent variable is a measure of feminine stereotyping, which asks respondents to place a candidate on a scale ranging from zero to seven on  measure of (1) strong-weak, (2) harsh-lenient, (3) hard-soft, (4) cold-warm, and (5) distant-caring, where the former is a more masculine assessment of the candidate and the latter is a more feminine assessment of the candidate.

Method: Bauer uses a survey experimental design to assess the degree to which differences in individual characteristics influences the degree to which individuals rely on feminine stereotypes. Respondents were asked to consider a female and a male for a congressional seat, who were otherwise identical.

Findings: Bauer finds that those voters who are less attentive to the news, more politically knowledgeable, non-partisan, or weak partisans, and men are more likely to rely on feminine stereotypes. Furthermore, those who do rely on stereotypes are less supportive of female candidates. Bauer’s recognition that stereotype reliance varies from individual to individual is an important one. In this article she does an excellent job of identifying some of the sources of stereotype reliance. As she notes, the seemingly contradictory findings re: attention to news, and political knowledge, are confounding. Furthermore, subsequent research may seek to identify the mechanisms underlying those variables identified as contributing to feminine stereotype reliance.

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