Ideology and Gender in U.S. House Elections

  • Danielle M. ThomsenEmail author
Original Paper


Studies of gender-ideology stereotypes suggest that voters evaluate male and female candidates in different ways, yet data limitations have hindered an analysis of candidate ideology, sex, and actual election outcomes. This article draws on a new dataset of male and female primary and general election candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1980 to 2012. I find little evidence that the relationship between ideology and victory patterns differs for male and female candidates. Neither Republican nor Democratic women experience distinct electoral fates than ideologically similar men. Candidate sex and ideology do interact in other ways, however; Democratic women are more liberal than their male counterparts, and they are advantaged in primaries over Republican women as well as Democratic men. The findings have important implications for contemporary patterns of women’s representation, and they extend our understanding of gender bias and neutrality in American elections.


Gender Ideology Congressional elections Partisan gap 



Previous versions of the article were presented at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association. I am grateful to the Dirksen Congressional Center and the Political Parity Project for their support of the data collection. I thank Rosalyn Cooperman, Melissa Deckman, Chris Faricy, Shana Gadarian, Andy Hall, Katherine Michelmore, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback. I am grateful to Spencer Piston for his comments on multiple drafts of the article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Democratic PoliticsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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