Empathy as a Method for Understanding Why 53% of White Women Voters Voted for Trump

By William J. Kelleher

Several recent news articles, including one from The New York Times and The Atlantic, offer up an explanation for why 53% of white women voters voted for Donald Trump, despite the disrespect he has shown for women, particularly white women. For example, The New York Times article presents political scientist Kathleen Dolan’s explanation of this political behavior. That explanation can be stated in the form of this syllogism:

Empirical studies show that

  • A) voters generally tend to vote according to their party identification, and that
  • B) a majority of white women identify with the Republican Party;
  • C) therefore, a majority of white women voted for Trump rather than Clinton.

This “explanation” has the virtue of being relatively straight forward insofar as it consists of explicit inferences drawn from accepted facts. But I’m not satisfied with the explanation given. The implication that party ID caused the voting results seems overly mechanistic, shallow, and insufficient. I still want to know why so many white women voters voted for Donald Trump.

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“The Emperor Has No Balls”: Virility, Masculinity, and the American Presidency

By Meredith Conroy and Caroline Heldman

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Two weeks ago, the guerilla art collective Indecline unveiled a series of statues featuring a naked Donald Trump in New York City, Cleveland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Indecline entitled the installation “The Emperor Has No Balls” in reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Andersen’s parable is about a vain emperor who is duped into parading around naked by two weavers who convince the leader his suit is only invisible to those who are incompetent or unfit for their positions. No one dares to call out the naked emperor until a child cries out that he has no clothes.

A multitude of meanings could be drawn from the statue, and many have already criticized the Indecline installation for being fat shaming and transphobic. Our critique lies in the most obvious of Indecline’s statements—an assault on Trump’s masculinity. The artist created statues with no balls and a very small penis; a trimming of Trump’s “manhood.”

The problem with this seemingly radical installation is the underlying theme that feminized men are less fit to lead. That Trump is without his balls unwittingly elevates masculinity in the presidential contest at the expense of femininity. This is certainly not the first time this message has circulated in presidential politics, and these messages incentivize both men and women to take on more masculine behaviors and positions, which limit political diversity and representation.

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The GOP “diversity problem” explained

By Meredith Conroy and Caroline Heldman

Nikki Haley 2010

Nikki Haley 2010

 

 

When it was announced that Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina, would be giving the official response to Obama’s final State of the Union address, Democratic National Committee chair and Representative of Florida’s 23rd District, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, commented that the choice by the GOP was because they have a “diversity problem.”

The GOP does elect fewer people of color than the Democratic Party, but does this mean they have a diversity problem?

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‘Toughness,’ Pull-ups, and the Race for the Presidency

By Meredith Conroy

Ann Telnaes, editorial cartoonist, Washington Post

On Friday, The Week published an opinion piece entitled, “American presidential elections used to be ‘manliness’ competitions. What happened?” by journalist Paul Waldman. This piece was inspired by remarks from Donald Trump to the Daily Mail.com about Texas Governor and Presidential candidate, Rick Perry. Trump has been insulting his way through the Republican presidential field, as the media has been rabidly covering; of Rick Perry, Trump remarked, “I think that he’s trying so hard, but it’s not about trying. It’s about energy, it’s about brainpower, it’s about toughness.” A few hours later, Perry chose to respond to that which he is most likely to have an edge (toughness), and challenged Trump to a pull-up contest: “Let’s get a pull-up bar out there and see who can do more pull-ups.” While its unlikely that a pull-up contest will result from this verbal tiff between Trump and Perry, as spectators of presidential politics we should expect to see many more attempts by the candidates to assert their manliness. Because unlike the assumed premise of Waldman’s article, manliness is now, as it has always been, inextricably linked to campaigning for, and media coverage of, presidential elections. Here, I review some of the political science scholarship on the topic, present original insight from a larger project of my own, and discuss consequences of this routine political certainty.

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Politics, Groups, and Identities: Virtual Special Issue

By Meredith Conroy

The WPSA journal, Politics, Groups, and Identities (PGI) has published a virtual special edition accessible to everyone, for free, for an entire year. The articles are all focused in one way or another on gender and politics.

Myself, along with my co-authors Sarah Oliver, Ian Breckenridge-Jackson, and Caroline Heldman, are pleased to be apart of this virtual edition with our article, “From Ferraro to Palin: Sexism in coverage of vice presidential candidates in old and new media.” This article contributes to the scholarship on the topic of media bias in election coverage where women are in the race. While there is some scholarship that suggests women who run for congressional seats are seeing fewer differences in their coverage from their male opponents, this improvement may not follow for women who run for executive office. In our article, we direct our attention to women who have been nominated to the vice presidency. While there are only two instances in our country’s modern history, Ferraro in 1984, and Palin in 2008, we find that we can draw important conclusions from their experiences. Furthermore, our analysis advances the field in that we look not only at print media coverage of the candidates, but also at the political news blogs, for Palin in 2008. We expect these findings to be especially relevant as coverage of political contests continues to move online, and the number of political blogs that attract considerable readership continues to grow.

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The GOP’s empathy deficit and when it matters

By Meredith Conroy

This week at The Fix, Chris Cillizza’s Washington Post blog, reporter Aaron Blake published “Hilary Clinton’s problem is honesty. The GOP’s is empathy.” Blake reports that a recent Washington Post-ABC poll finds respondents to be untrusting of the former New York Senator, and Secretary of State; just 41 percent think Clinton is honest. Compared to Jeb Bush, The Post shows Clinton to have a considerable honesty perception deficit. Yet in terms of perception of empathy (“Clinton/Bush understands the problems of people like you”), Bush trails Clinton by quite a large margin.

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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.