Political Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 357–395 | Cite as

The Consequences of Explicit and Implicit Gender Attitudes and Candidate Quality in the Calculations of Voters

  • Cecilia Hyunjung MoEmail author
Original Paper


How much does a voter’s attitude towards female versus male leadership manifest itself at the ballot box and when does information regarding candidate qualifications or the lack thereof matter in this relationship? I conduct an in-depth survey, which includes a vote choice experiment randomizing the sex of the more qualified candidate, a novel gender and leadership Implicit Association Test, and a measure of explicit gender attitudes to explore this question. I find that the propensity to pick a female candidate increases as explicit and implicit attitudes against female leadership decrease, suggesting that traditional explicit measures underestimate the effects of gender attitudes and miss a key dimension of people’s preferences. Gender attitudes in the electoral process remain consequential, but have grown subtler, which is missed when only assessing people’s self-reported explicit attitudes. Fortunately, the effects of voters’ gender attitudes can be attenuated by candidate qualification information; however, it does not rid the effects of gender on vote choice uniformly. People who explicitly state a preference for male leaders do not respond to individuating information, even if the female candidate is clearly more qualified than her male counterpart. However, people who implicitly prefer male leaders, but explicitly state being gender-equitable respond to individuating information and tend to select the more qualified candidate regardless of the candidate’s sex. The study points to the significance of dual process account of reasoning—acknowledging that individuals operate on two levels, System 1 (automatic and implicit) and System 2 (effortful and explicit)—in understanding voting behavior.


Gender Implicit attitudes Vote choice Implicit association test (IAT) 



This research was funded by a generous grant from the Stanford Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Fund. A debt of gratitude goes to Jonathan Bendor, Jim Fishkin, Danielle Harlan, Shanto Iyengar, Jon Krosnick, Jennifer Lawless, Neil Malhotra, Josh Pasek, Keith Payne, Efren Perez, Baba Shiv, Zakary Tormala, Michael Weiksner, Christian Wheeler, and Sam Wineburg, as well as participants of the the annual meeting of both the Midwest Political Science Association and the American Political Science Association, Stanford’s American Politics Seminar, Stanford’s Political Psychology Research Group Seminar, the Stanford Graduate Writing Workshop, and the Graduate School of Business Political Economy Seminar at Stanford University for helpful comments and advice. David Sleeth-Keppler at the Graduate School of Business Behavioral Lab was invaluable to my efforts as well. All errors and opinions are my own.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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