Tag Archives: gender

Early Voting Skews Democratic and Female

In previous posts, I’ve presented evidence that there is no wave of youth voters showing up at early voting. While this doesn’t comport with Democratic theories that young Marylanders will propel them into office in a wave, there is other good news for Democrats.

Democrats Out Participating Republicans

First, Democrats are participating at higher rates than Republicans in early voting in all but two counties in the state:

The statewide gap in participation between the two major parties is 2.4%. However, it is much wider in some jurisdictions. In Montgomery, Democrats are showing up a full 5.6% more than Republicans. The gap in Howard is 5.2% and in Baltimore City is 5.1%.

Democrats in Kent, Prince George’s and Frederick also have high participation rates relative to Republicans with gaps of 4.9%, 4.2%, and 4.1% respectively. Anne Arundel Democrats lead their Republican counterparts by 3.5%.

In contrast, Republicans are narrowly out participating Democrats in Caroline and Somerset. The latter has long had weak Democratic participation relative to the potential strength of the party in this county with a sizable African-American population.

Finally, note that unaffiliated voters (i.e. independents) are participating at lower rates than members of either major party in every jurisdiction throughout the state. Overall, their turnout rates are less than half as strong as either major party.

Why the lower rates? First, major parties have organizations trying to get their voters to the polls. Second, independent voters just tend to be less interested in politics and less likely to vote.

Women Out Participating Men

As of last night, women composed 57% of all early voters, while men were just 43%. People with no gender marker in their voter file comprised 0.06% of all early voters.

These statistics are more like what one might expect to see in a Democratic primary where women often compose around 60% of the overall electorate. They provide further evidence of the Democratic lean of early voters. Trump has exacerbated the already wide gender gap in partisanship and voting behavior.

If 2016 seemed to be ultimately all about angry men lining up behind Trump, early voting in 2018 is thus far about motivated women.


Why Women Hold Fewer Elective Offices

Yesterday, I reviewed political science research revealing that women who run for Congress do just as well as men and, contrary to public perception, do not face hostile press coverage that harps on their gender and appearance.

So why are there substantially fewer women than men in public office?

Today and in the next post, I focus on two key factors: First, women are less likely to run for public office than men. Second, the type of office greatly shapes who runs and wins.

My discussion today relies heavily on research by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox, particularly their articles in the American Journal of Political Science and American Political Science Review. The APSR is widely viewed as the top journal in political science and the AJPS is one of the top three venues to publish work in American politics.

Fewer Women Run

Lawless and Fox’s Citizen Political Ambition Study surveyed 3,765 people (1,969 men and 1,796 women) they considered highly eligible to run for office, largely people in the professions of law, business and education.

Among this group of potential candidates, 59% of men but just 43% of women said that they considered running for office. The probability that those who considered running actually sought office also revealed gender differences with 20% of men but only 15% of women taking the plunge to enter the political arena.

Interestingly, among those who did run, 63% of the women held public office as opposed to 59% of men. Unlike the gender differences mentioned in the previous paragraph, this one is not statistically significant. If we want more women in public office, we need to focus on the barriers that deter women from running.

Barriers to Women Running for Office

Fox and Lawless find that women are less likely than men to discuss the possibility of running for office with family and friends (22% of women v. 33% of men), community leaders (9% v. 15%), and party leaders (6% v. 12%) than their male counterparts. Improved outreach seems a straightforward way to overcome this barrier.

Next, Fox and Lawless showed that men are more likely than women to consider running for office even when they have similar perceptions of their qualifications:

Source: Richard L. Fox and Jennifer L. Lawless, “Entering the Arena? Gender and the Decision to Run for Office,” American Journal of Political Science 48: 2(April 2004), p. 273.

As the table shows, women who see themselves as “not at all” or “somewhat” qualified are far less likely than men who see themselves the same way to consider running for office. The yawning gap shrinks dramatically, but does not disappear, at higher qualification levels.

It’s really a double whammy.  Women are not only less likely to perceive themselves as qualified but also are less likely to run even when they have the same perception of their qualifications to run for office as men.

Interestingly, Fox and Lawless argue that two suspected culprits, family responsibilities and having a more traditional political cultural outlook (i.e. being more moralistic) do not shape the likelihood of running for office after controlling for other factors such as income, age, encouragement, and self-perceived qualifications.

Going deeper into the subject matter, Fox and Lawless find that gender differences in political ambition surface in both high school and college students. Their survey revealed that young women are less likely than young men to think about running for office:

Source: Richard L. Fox and Jennifer L. Lawless, “Uncovering the Origins of the Gender Gap in Political Ambition,” American Political Science Review 108: 3(August 2014), p. 502.

They find that gender differences that help drive these differences in political ambition are especially pronounced among college students:

Source: Richard L. Fox and Jennifer L. Lawless, “Uncovering the Origins of the Gender Gap in Political Ambition,” American Political Science Review 108: 3(August 2014), p. 510.

Family members are more likely to suggest to college men that they run for office. College women are less likely to discuss politics or visit political websites. Perhaps most jarringly, college women are less likely than college men to think they will be qualified to run for office in the future.

In the final part of this three-part series, I examine how the type of office also shapes whether women run or win.


What You Believe about Why Fewer Women Hold Legislative Office is Probably Wrong

The U.S. House up for grabs and many women are running as challengers today incumbents and for open seats. Del. Aruna Miller’s bid for the open Sixth Congressional District is a great example. Many Americans believe that it is harder for women than men to run and to win these elections. In particular, women are subjected to sexist media coverage with too much focus on how they appear. Female candidates also find it harder to raise money and face bias from voters, so they have to be more qualified than men to win election to Congress.

None of this is true.

More specifically, political science research on congressional elections doesn’t support these conclusions. Gender matters in elections but it doesn’t shape House elections in these ways.

Today’s post borrows heavily from research by Jennifer Lawless. Jen is Professor of Government at AU, though we are unfortunately losing her to UVA in the Fall, and Director of the Women and Politics Institute. She has written much of the best and most cutting edge scholarship on women running for office. In particular, I rely on a book she coauthored with GWU Prof. Danny Hayes, Women on the Run: Gender, Media and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era.

Media Coverage

Let’s start with the media. In their study, Hayes and Lawless looked at articles in the top local newspaper from the last month of every 2010 and 2014 congressional campaign. Despite their decline, newspapers remain the most influential source of U.S. House campaign coverage. Among the 4,524 articles coded, they found exactly 32 references to candidate appearance:Source: Danny Hayes and Jennifer L. Lawless, Women on the Run, p. 66.

In other words, 0.7% of newspaper campaign coverage mentioned appearance. Rather than harping constantly on candidate appearance, such discussion is almost nonexistent in newspaper coverage of congressional candidates. One reason for the decline is that the novelty of women running for Congress has vanished for the most part.

Another is that men and women run very similar campaigns in terms of the issues that they discuss. Hayes and Lawless find that party plays a far greater role than gender. Analysis of congressional candidate television ads and tweets reveals that candidates tend to emphasize similar issues with gender differences being small and only rarely statistically significant.

Similar campaigns result in similar press coverage. Gender differences in the issues emphasized in newspaper coverage are small and usually not statistically significant. As the focus on issues specific to one gender is small, so is coverage of those issues. Additionally, while party plays an enormous role in how voters view candidates, gender differences are once again small (often to the benefit of women) and not statistically significant.

Winning Elections

When women run for Congress, they do just as well as men.

This is not a new conclusion. In her 1996 book, A Women’s Place is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era, Barbara Burrell did not find that women are penalized for their gender by voters at the polls. Hayes and Lawless arrived at the same conclusion in their more recent study of the 2010 and 2014 elections.

Source: Danny Hayes and Jennifer L. Lawless, Women on the Run, p. 107.

The graph above presents the relative impact of gender and party on the probability of a the success of the Democratic U.S. House candidate after controlling for a variety of factors. Gender has almost no impact, as indicated by the small coefficients. The overlap of the confidence intervals, shown by the lines around the dots, with zero indicates that candidate gender has no statistically significant impact on the outcome.

Other research not reviewed here also indicates that women do just as well in raising campaign funds – no real surprise as women dominated the world of fundraising at the national Democratic Party even 30 years ago in the late 1980s. They also don’t need to be more qualified – women do just as well as men with equivalent qualifications.

So why do women hold substantially fewer elected offices than men in the U.S.? That’s the subject of tomorrow’s post.