Do Voters Judge the Performance of Female and Male Politicians Differently? Experimental Evidence from the United States and Australia

Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2021, Vol. 74(2) 302 –316
© 2020 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912920906193
What if men are by physiology or temperament more
adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?
—Tony Abbott, former prime minister of Australia1
I just don’t think she has a presidential look, and you need a
presidential look.
—Donald Trump on Hillary Clinton2
The idea that women have to fit certain stereotypes; that’s a
weight around the ankle of every ambitious woman I’ve ever
met. [. . .] This should be called out for what it is: a cultural,
political, economic game that is being played to keep women
in their place.
—Hillary Clinton3
Women who run for political office face a different envi-
ronment than their male counterparts (Dittmar 2014;
Lawless 2015). Female candidates must overcome preex-
isting conceptions about their suitability for office based
on stereotypes related to their gender (Bauer 2019;
Fridkin, Kenney, and Woodall 2009; Koch 2000; Mo
2015; Paul and Smith 2008; Sanbonmatsu 2002;
Sanbonmatsu and Dolan 2009; Sawer 2002). While men
are thought to be assertive, confident, and independent—
the traditional traits of leadership—women as a social
group are thought to be kind, other-serving, and compas-
sionate (Eagly and Karau 2002; Huddy and Capelos
2002; Huddy and Terkildsen 1993b; Koenig et al. 2011).
These gender stereotypes not only affect public percep-
tions of women’s suitability for office and leadership, but
also affect perceptions of their political views (Devroe
and Wauters 2018; Kelley and McAllister 1983; Koch
2000), their electability (Funk, Hinojosa, and Piscopo
2017; O’Brien 2015; Thomas 2018; Thomas and Bodet
906193PRQXXX10.1177/1065912920906193Political Research QuarterlyDe Geus et al.
1Oxford University, UK
2University of Toronto, ON, Canada
3The University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Roosmarijn A. de Geus, Nuffield College, Gwilym Gibbon Centre for
Public Policy, Oxford University, New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF, UK.
Do Voters Judge the Performance of
Female and Male Politicians Differently?
Experimental Evidence from the United
States and Australia
Roosmarijn A. de Geus1, John R. McAndrews2, Peter John Loewen2,
and Aaron Martin3
Do gender stereotypes about agency affect how voters judge the governing performance of political executives?
We explore this question using two conjoint experiments: one conducted in the United States and the other in
Australia. Contrary to our expectations, we find no evidence in either experiment to suggest that female political
executives (i.e., governors, premiers, and mayors) receive lower levels of credit than their male counterparts for
positive governing performance. We do find evidence that female executives receive less blame than male executives
for poor governing performance—but only in the U.S. case. Taken together, our findings suggest that the stereotype
of male agency has only a limited effect on voters’ retrospective judgments. Moreover, the results indicate that—when
performance information is presented in unframed, factual terms—agentic stereotyping by voters does not, in itself,
present a serious obstacle to the re-election of women in powerful executive positions.
gender, retrospective voting, conjoint experiment, United States, Australia

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT