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Run, Jane, Run! Gendered Responses to Political Party Recruitment


Many researchers point to gender inequities in party recruitment practices to explain women’s underrepresentation on the ballot. However, there has been little systematic research about how men and women respond to recruitment, so we do not know whether gender-balanced recruitment would actually lead to gender-balanced outcomes. We conduct two studies to address this question. First, in cooperation with a county Republican Party, we identically recruited 5510 male and 5506 female highly active party members to attend a free candidate training seminar. Republican women were half as likely to respond to the invitation as men. Second, we conducted a survey experiment of 3960 voters on the Utah Colleges Exit Poll. Republican men’s level of self-reported political ambition was increased by the prospect of elite recruitment significantly more than Republican women’s, thereby increasing the gender gap vis-à-vis the control. The gender gap in the effect of recruitment on political ambition among Democrats was much smaller. Together, these findings suggest that to fully understand the role recruitment plays in women’s underrepresentation, researchers must understand the ways in which men and women respond to recruitment, not just whether political elites engage in gendered recruitment practices.

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  1. We mailed invitations to a total of 6,056 women, but a random subset of these women received a woman-specific message that men did not receive, so we limit our analysis here to the 5506 women who received identical invitations to the men. See Preece and Stoddard 2015a for the full analysis.

  2. As part of a larger field experiment, subjects were randomly assigned to receive one of 11 slightly different invitations in an attempt to see if different messages were more effective in recruiting. However, there were few statistically significant differences between the invitations with regard to who registered for or attended the event, so we have aggregated the various conditions for this paper.

  3. The ID number included portions of the subject’s first and last names to emphasize that the invitation was to that specific person and discourage another household resident from using it.

  4. To monitor compliance, we carefully checked that the individuals who registered for and attended PCIS were the same individuals who the invitations were intended for. All of the registered individuals were in fact the intended recipients of the invitation, and only two of the PCIS attendees were absent from our list. They attended as guests of the registered participants and we excluded them from our statistical analysis.

  5. Appendix 3A in Electronic Supplementary Material provides a detailed discussion of our outreach efforts.

  6. Examples include the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Campaign Management Seminar, the Center for Progressive Leadership’s Local Progressive Candidate Trainings, the American Majority’s New Leaders Campaign Training, and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Candidate and Campaign Training.

  7. See Appendix 3B in Electronic Supplementary Material for a detailed discussion of the design and sampling of the exit poll. See also

  8. Embedded in the survey itself were three different experiments. To ensure that each subject was exposed to a treatment, a Latin Square design was put in place that ensured each subject received one control and two treatment messages. Further, our experiment was the first of the three, so our results should be unaffected by the other treatments.

  9. See Appendix 4 in Electronic Supplementary Material for the full survey text.

  10. In Appendix Table 3 in Electronic Supplementary Material, we report the breakdown of summary statistics by treatment and gender. The table shows that there are no statistically significant differences in control and treatment groups within each gender, with the exception of incomes between $100,000 and $125,000 for men and greater than $150,000 for women. We control for these differences in our robustness tests below.

  11. Subjects’ responses were coded as 1, 2, 3, or 4, with the numbers corresponding to “No”, “Probably not”, “Probably yes”, and “Yes” respectively.

  12. We also performed our analysis with two additional measures of political ambition: individual i’s probability of responding “yes”; 2) individual i’s probability of responding positively (either “yes” or “probably yes”). The results of these analyses are reported in Appendix Table 4 in Electronic Supplementary Material.


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We would like to thank Utah County Republican Party chairmen David Acheson and Casey Voeks; David Magleby and Utah Colleges Exit Poll research assistants Alejandra Gimenez and Geoffrey Cannon; our research assistants, Kali Smith and Brandon Betz; and three very helpful anonymous reviewers. We are grateful for early feedback from Jen Lawless, Kira Sanbonmatsu, Kelly Patterson, and the members of Brigham Young University’s Politics, Economics, and Development Labs. We would like to acknowledge the research support of the Women’s Research Initiative, the Emmeline B. Wells Scholarly and Creative Works Grant, and a Mentored Environment Grant at Brigham Young University.

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Correspondence to Jessica Robinson Preece.

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Preece, J.R., Stoddard, O.B. & Fisher, R. Run, Jane, Run! Gendered Responses to Political Party Recruitment. Polit Behav 38, 561–577 (2016).

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  • Gender
  • Women’s representation
  • Recruitment
  • Experiment