Date of Award

8-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony J. Nownes

Committee Members

Nathan J. Kelly, Patricia K. Freeland, Suzanne Kurth

Abstract

In the United States, there has been a gradual increase of women elected to office, yet women are still drastically underrepresented at every level. One potential obstacle to the electoral success of women is the propensity of voters to stereotype candidates based on their gender. However, voters also stereotype political candidates based on their party affiliation. Therefore, it is important to understand how stereotypes regarding the Republican and Democratic Parties may interact with stereotypes concerning men and women.

While experimental research has been utilized extensively to test the effect of gender stereotypes on candidate evaluations; almost all of this research did not use the party affiliation of the candidate as a control. This dissertation adds to the experimental work on gender stereotyping by controlling for candidate gender and candidate party affiliation in an original survey experiment.

Undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee were asked to evaluate a hypothetical male or female U.S. Senate candidate in either the Democratic or Republican Party based on a one page biography and issue position vignette they read. The students were asked to rate the candidate on a variety of evaluation measures including: overall competency, electability, ideological orientation, personality traits, and issue competency. To ascertain the impact of the candidates’ gender and party affiliation in above mentioned evaluation measures I executed several independent sample t-tests to compare various group means.

The results suggest that the gender of the candidate does not play a significant role in the perceived competency or electability of the candidate, or inferring a candidate’s ideological orientation. However, for trait and issue evaluations, the results suggest there are complicated interactions between the candidate’s gender, the candidate’s party affiliation as well as the respondents’ gender. The trait and issue evaluation results indicate that partisan stereotypes are prevalent and that both parties may have taken on gendered characteristics. Also, while trait and issue evaluation results indicate that gender stereotypes are used, it appears that gender stereotypes are conditioned by the candidates’ party affiliation and influenced by the respondents’ gender.

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