Quotas and Party Priorities: Direct and Indirect Effects of Quota Laws

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-180hhxCJ9PZK3k/input 809493PRQXXX10.1177/1065912918809493Political Research QuarterlyWeeks
Political Research Quarterly
2019, Vol. 72(4) 849 –862
Quotas and Party Priorities: Direct and
© 2018 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
Indirect Effects of Quota Laws
DOI: 10.1177/1065912918809493
Ana Catalano Weeks1
In light of increasing numbers of women in politics, extant research has examined the role of women in the
parliamentary party on agenda-setting. This paper complements that literature by exploring the effect of a gendered
institution theorized to promote both numbers of women and awareness of women’s interests: gender quota laws.
I suggest that after a quota law, parties could have incentives to either reduce (backlash effect) or increase (salience
) attention to women’s policy concerns. Using matching and regression methods with a panel data set of parties
in advanced democracies, I find that parties in countries that implement a quota law devote more attention to social
justice issues in their manifestos than similar parties in countries without a quota. Furthermore, the paper shows that
this effect is driven entirely by the law itself. Contrary to expectations, quota laws are not associated with increases
in women in my (short-term) sample; it is thus no surprise that no evidence of an indirect effect through numbers of
women is found. I interpret the findings as evidence of quota contagion, whereby quotas cue party leaders to compete
on gender equality issues.
gender quotas, political parties, agenda-setting, representation
I had to fight to have a chapter in the program for instance.
campaign pledge to reform health care with the passage
For gender equality . . . I wrote it, and then I presented it,
of the Affordable Care Act. In the United Kingdom, the
there were no questions, no one made any comments. And it
Conservative Party promised to hold a referendum on
was one of the texts since the beginning everybody said, OK,
whether to leave the European Union and respect the out-
that text is OK. So after that I had to proofread it myself to
come, and they have. Although not deterministic (more
see if there were any mistakes or so on. I don’t think anybody
on this later), party positions matter.
read it.
Previous literature suggests that environmental factors
like public opinion, ideology, and organizational struc-
—Viviane Teitelbaum, Belgian politician (MR)1
ture are the most important determinants of party priori-
ties. Recently, several authors have contributed to this
The issues of inequality are now a political problem. Even
literature by demonstrating the significant role of descrip-
people of the right wing that didn’t agree with the [quota]
tive representation, women in the party (Greene and
law, they now talk about the effects, how they will affect
O’Brien 2016; Kittilson 2011; O’Brien 2012). Gender
women, of several measures that are adopted by the
quota laws are electoral laws or constitutional provisions
requiring all parties to include a certain percentage of
women in their party lists. This is the first study to address
—Maria de Belém, Portuguese politician (PS)2
the link between quotas and party priorities. The contri-
bution of this study is to address two key questions: (1)
Do parties change their priorities after a quota law is
Do gender quota laws matter to parties’ policy agen-
das, and if so how? As the channels that link a people to a
1University of Bath, UK
government, political parties are perhaps the most impor-
tant mechanism of representation (Sartori 2005). Corresponding Author:
Decisions about party priorities set the bounds for future
Ana Catalano Weeks, Department of Politics, Languages &
International Studies, University of Bath, 1 West North, Claverton
policy change. Recent examples are illustrative: in the
Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
United States, President Obama fulfilled his party’s
Email: a.c.weeks@bath.ac.uk

Political Research Quarterly 72(4)
implemented and (2) Is the effect of a quota law indepen-
parties in countries that do not. Matching improves balance
dent from the effect of additional numbers of women?
in the data set, reducing the dependence of the findings on
The distinction between quotas and women is not triv-
statistical modeling assumptions. I then use this pruned data
ial, and there are reasons to believe quotas could either
in models employing a difference-in-difference approach,
dampen or reinforce the representation of women’s pol-
which compares “treated” parties in countries that get a
icy priorities. On the positive side (salience effect), quo-
quota law to “control” parties that do not. As a robustness
tas can change the political culture to be more accepting
check, I remove parties that proposed the quota law, so that
of women in politics, in both parliaments (Burnet 2011;
for the parties remaining the quota law can be seen as an
Galligan, Clavero, and Calloni 2007; Xydias 2014) and
exogenous change imposed on the party. The pruned data
among the general public (Beaman et al. 2008). They can
includes forty parties in sixteen countries from 1969 to
also lead women elected via a quota to feel they have a
2011. I also show that results are similar using regression
mandate to act “for” women, making them especially
without matching.
likely to support women’s policy interests (Franceschet
I find no evidence of a backlash effect, and support
and Piscopo 2008). On the negative side (backlash effect),
for increased salience to some of women’s policy con-
quotas might also lead to women elected via a quota feel-
cerns after a quota. Quotas increase party attention to
ing stigmatized and avoiding women’s issues (Franceschet
social justice, but not welfare state expansion or the par-
and Piscopo 2008) and there is a fear of resentful male
ty’s overall left–right position. Quota laws lead to a siz-
politicians trying to prevent “quota women” from exer-
able 5.6 percentage point increase in party attention to
cising political power (Hawkesworth 2003; Heath, social justice; that is, a party that spent 10 percent of its
Schwindt-Bayer, and Taylor-Robinson 2005). In light of
manifesto discussing social justice would be expected to
this, can and will women elected after a quota act to pur-
spend 15.6 percent of its manifesto on social justice after
sue women’s interests? Will (predominantly male) party
a quota law is implemented. The effect is driven entirely
leaders act differently with regard to women’s interests?
by the law itself. Contrary to common assumptions, I
This paper provides the first cross-country evidence
find no evidence that quotas increased numbers of
that quota laws affect party agendas. Although the ques-
women within the parties in my short-term sample. It is
tion of whether other types of quotas like internal party
thus unsurprising that I also find no evidence of an indi-
quotas also lead to change is interesting, for the sake of
rect effect through numbers of women. I interpret these
this paper I focus on laws. This is because the imposition
findings as evidence for quota “contagion” on gender
of quotas on parties that did not support them offers a
equality policies. After a quota law, parties increase
good context to explore causal effects, using party-level
competition on gender equality issues to target or retain
data. The imposition of a national level law might also
women voters.
shift the national debate and public opinion in ways that a
The paper proceeds as follows. First, I review the lit-
party quota does not. I consider the possibility of positive
erature on party agendas and gender. I then propose two
and negative effects of a quota law on three positions
sets of hypotheses linking quotas and policy change,
characterized by a gender gap in preferences in advanced
focusing on the direction of the effect and causal media-
democracies: (1) social justice, (2) welfare state expan-
tion. I test these claims using party manifesto data. The
sion, and (3) left–right position. To better understand the
results present consistent evidence that quotas shift party
mechanisms driving the results, I conduct mediation
attention to social justice issues, and that the (short-term)
analysis to tease apart direct and indirect effects; that is,
effect is direct rather than mediated by women. I con-
effects of the law itself versus those channeled through
clude by discussing quotas as not only outcomes in the
women in the party. The quotations from interviews with
political process but also important instigators of atti-
politicians above indicate that after a quota, women might
tudes and behavior.
be better able to exercise power over the party program
(as in the Teitelbaum quote) and party leaders might be
Quotas, Women, and Party Priorities
more likely to see gender equality as a “political prob-
lem” that they can no longer ignore (de Belém).
Party positions, as set out in manifestos, represent an
To test this argument, I analyze party positions as set out
early but crucial stage in the policy process: where the
in manifestos, which come from the The Manifesto Project
agenda is set. The manifesto provides a program for the
(Budge et al. 2001; Klingemann et al. 2006; Volkens et al.
winning party...

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