Americans favor women politicians over men, says Stevens study

October 01, 2018

As midterm elections approach with an unprecedented number of women candidates running for Congress, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology reveal that both women and men prefer female politicians, with men rating women politicians significantly higher than male politicians.

"These results came as a real surprise," says Lindsey Cormack, who co-led the work. "It could signal a backlash given the current political environment, in the sense that there is a rebalancing in favor of women."

Using a nationally diverse sample of 1,400 voting-age Americans, Cormack and fellow Stevens political science professor Kristyn Karl unveiled the findings at the American Political Science Association's annual meeting in Boston on August 30.

In their survey, Cormack and Karl presented articles about politicians making sorrowful or angry appeals in response to fictitious policy failures or concerns, on topics ranging from education to defense. They then asked the respondents to score how favorably they viewed the politicians and to evaluate their leadership, competence, intelligence, compassion and sincerity (on a scale from 1 to 4). The gender of the politicians, their appeals, and the issues varied across articles.

The survey was distributed by Survey Sampling International, the world's leading provider of market research, to U.S. citizens aged 18 years or older. The sample was designed to mirror U.S. census benchmarks in terms of gender, age, race and political affiliation.

The work shows that both men and women favor women politicians, but men repeatedly rate them significantly higher, regardless of tone or topic they addressed in the article. Specifically, Democratic men assess women politicians significantly more favorable than male politicians. Republican men and women, on the other hand, evaluate men and women politicians similarly.

In addition to the overall preference for women over men in politics, Cormack and Karl found that male politicians faced the steepest penalties when communicating about defense issues in emotional ways when they conveyed sorrow.

"We expected that women politicians would be viewed negatively for violating gender norms about emotionality but in reality, it was men who were punished most severely," says Karl. "While women politicians were not clearly punished for expressing anger or sadness, men politicians who talked about masculine topics - such as defense policy - in an 'unmanly' way - with sadness - faced significantly more negative evaluations."

Some urge caution in evaluating these elections as evidence of a sea change. Indeed, the "pink wave" is also very blue, as Democrats make up a large share of women candidates this cycle. But instead of attributing success to individual candidates or district conditions, the work suggests that the public may simply be ready for women to lead.

Stevens Institute of Technology

Related Politics Articles from Brightsurf:

Fashion's underappreciated role in presidential politics
New research reveals style plays an underappreciated role in presidential politics and has meaningful consequences for presidential power.

'Lazy use' of term populist has helped to legitimize far-right politics
New analysis from academics at the University of Bath into the media's use of the term 'populism' highlights how its overuse has clouded important debates about nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.

Justice for all: How race and American identity may affect politics
New Penn State research examined whether feeling like you belong in America -- or not -- affected how members of different races and ethnicities participated in politics.

Women quotas in politics have unintended consequences
Women continue to be scarce in the halls of power.

The use of jargon kills people's interest in science, politics
When scientists and others use their specialized jargon terms while communicating with the general public, the effects are much worse than just making what they're saying hard to understand.

Stressed out: Americans making themselves sick over politics
Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed for a new study said politics is stressing them out, and 4% -- the equivalent of 10 million US adults -- reported suicidal thoughts related to politics.

Study: Children are interested in politics but need better education from parents and schools
The 2020 election is approaching -- how should we talk with children about this election and about politics more broadly?

Forget 'Obamageddon', 'prepping' is now part of mainstream US politics and culture
Criminologist Dr. Michael Mills challenges the traditional view that US 'preppers' are motivated by extreme right-wing or apocalyptic views.

Study examines how picture books introduce kids to politics
Meagan Patterson of the University of Kansas has authored a study in which she analyzed political messages in some of the most popular picture books of the last several years to see how political topics are introduced to children.

US abortion politics: How did we get here and where are we headed?
After Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement accelerated rapidly, describes Munson in a new paper, 'Protest and Religion: The US Pro-Life Movement,' published last week in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Read More: Politics News and Politics Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to