The Consequences of Explicit and Implicit Gender Attitudes and Candidate Quality in the Calculations of Voters
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.
KeywordsGender 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.
- Bargh, J. A. (1999). The cognitive monster: The case against the controllability of automatic stereotype effects. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-Process Theories in Social Psychology (pp. 361–382). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Berger, J., Fisek, M. H., Norman, R. Z., & Zelditch, J. M. (1977). Status characteristics and social interactions: An expectations states approach. New York: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
- Birkett, N. J. (1986). Selecting the number of response categories for a likert-type scale. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association.Google Scholar
- Burrell, B. (1994). A woman’s place is in the house: Campaigning for Congress in the feminist era. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
- Burrell, B. (2008). Political parties, fund-raising, and sex. In B. Reingold (Ed.), Legislative women: Getting elected, getting ahead. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Delli Carpini, M. X., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Dolan, K. A. (2004). Voting for women: How the public evaluates women candidates. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Gaertner, S. L., & Dovidio, J. F. (1986). The aversive form of racism. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination and racism: Theory and research (pp. 61–89). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Iyengar, S., Valentino, N. A., Ansolabehere, S., & Simon, A. F. (1997). Running as women: Gender stereotyping in political campaigns. In P. Norris (Ed.), Women, media, and politics (pp. 77–98). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Johnson, C. A., Schaefer, R., & McKnight, R. N. (1978). The salience of judicial candidates and elections. Social Science Quarterly, 59, 371–378.Google Scholar
- Kahn, K. F. (1996). The political consequences of being a woman: How stereotypes influence the conduct and consequences of political campaigns. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Keeter, S., & Suls, R. (2008). Awareness of Iraq war fatalities plummets. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/762/political-knowledge-update.
- McDermott, M. (1998). Race and gender cues in low-information elections. Political Research Quarterly, 19(2), 57–80.Google Scholar
- Mendelberg, T. (2008). Racial priming revived. Perspectives on Politics, 6(1), 109–123.Google Scholar
- Nosek, B. A., Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (2007). The Implicit Association Test at age 7: A methodological and conceptual review. In J. A. Bargh (Ed.), Automatic processes in social thinking and behavior (pp. 265–292). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Popkin, S. (1991). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Sanbonmatsu, K., & Dolan, K. A. (2007). Gender stereotypes and gender preferences on the 2006 ANES pilot study. In A report to the ANES Board of overseers.Google Scholar
- Seltzer, R. A., Newman, J., & Leighton, M. V. (1997). Sex as a political variable. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
- Stanovich, K. E. (1999). Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Stanovich, K. E. (2002). Individual differences in reasoning. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Steinem, G. (2008). Women are never front-runners. New York Times. Retrieved 4 September, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/opinion/08steinem.html.
- Vianello, M., & Siemienska, R. (1990). Gender inequality: A comparative study of discrimination and participation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Yeager, D. S., Krosnick, J. A., Chiang, L., Javitz, H. S., Levendusky, M. S., Simpser, A., & Wang, R. (2009). Comparing the accuracy of RDD telephone surveys and internet surveys conducted with probability and non-probability samples. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from www.comm.stanford.edu/faculty/krosnick/Mode04.pdf.