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Candidate Gender and Electoral Success in Single Transferable Vote Systems

  • Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer, Michael Malecki and Brian F. Crisp
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1 Inter-parliamentary Union, 2008.

2 Norris, Pippa, ‘Women’s Legislative Participation in Western Europe’, West European Politics, 8 (1985), 90101; Paxton, Pamela, Hughes, Melanie M. and Green, Jennifer L., ‘Women’s Political Representation 1893–2003’, American Sociological Review, 71 (2006), 898920; Reynolds, Andrew, ‘Women in the Legislatures and Executives of the World: Knocking at the Highest Glass Ceiling’, World Politics, 51 (1999), 547572; Rule, Wilma, ‘Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies’, Western Political Quarterly, 40 (1987), 477498.

3 Parties typically run candidates in many, if not all, districts, but their fortunes often vary across them, with some districts being traditional strongholds, for example. We can think of parties’ performance as national averages, but we are interested in whether variations in performance across districts help explain the election of women. For example, are female candidates doomed by being fielded only in districts where the party does poorly? Thus, we account for each party’s history in each district by including a level in our models that captures this district-specific history of each party. We refer to this level as ‘party-in-a-district’.

4 Hirczy, Wolfgang, ‘STV and the Representation of Women’, PS: Political Science and Politics, 28 (1995), 711713; Taagepera, Rein, ‘Enhancing the Election Prospects of Women and Minorities in Electoral Systems’, in Wilma Rule and Joseph F. Zimmerman, eds, Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 235246; Zimmerman, Joseph F., ‘Alternative Voting Systems for Representative Democracy’, PS: Political Science and Politics, 27 (1994), 674677.

5 Rydon, Joan, ‘Representation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand’, in Rule and Zimmerman, eds, Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective, pp. 223234.

6 Galligan, Yvonne, ‘STV: A Gender-Proportional System?’ in Manon Tremblay, ed., Women and Legislative Representation: Electoral Systems, Political Parties, and Sex Quotas (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 149160.

7 Cook, Elizabeth Adell, ‘Voter Responses to Women Senate Candidates’, in Elizabeth Adell Cook, Sue Thomas and Clyde Wilcox, eds, The Year of the Woman: Myths and Realities (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994), pp. 217236; Dolan, Kathleen, ‘Voting for Women in the “Year of the Woman”’, American Journal of Political Science, 42 (1998), 272293; Paxton, Pamela and Hughes, Melanie M., Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective (Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press, 2007); Plutzer, Eric and Zipp, John F., ‘Identity Politics, Partisanship, and Voting for Women Candidates’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 60 (1996), 3057; Sanbonmatsu, Kira, ‘Gender-Related Political Knowledge and the Descriptive Representation of Women’, Political Behavior, 25 (2003), 367388; Seltzer, Richard A., Newman, Jody and Voorhees, Melissa, Sex as a Political Variable: Women as Candidates and Voters in US Elections (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1997); Smith, Eric R. A. N. and Fox, Richard L., ‘The Electoral Fortunes of Women Candidates for Congress’, Political Research Quarterly, 54 (2001), 205221.

8 Darcy, Robert and Schramm, Sarah Slavin, ‘When Women Run against Men’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 41 (1977), 112; Darcy, Robert, Welch, Susan and Clark, Janet, Women, Elections, and Representation, 2nd edn (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); Matland, Richard E., ‘Putting Scandinavian Equality to the Test: An Experimental Evaluation of Gender Stereotyping of Political Candidates in a Sample of Norwegian Voters’, British Journal of Political Science, 24 (1994), 273292; Norris, Pippa, Vallance, Elizabeth and Lovenduski, Joni, ‘Do Candidates Make a Difference? Gender, Race, Ideology, and Incumbency’, Parliamentary Affairs, 45 (1992), 496517.

9 Bean, Clive, ‘The Personal Vote in Australian Federal Elections’, Political Studies 38 (1990), 253268; Cook, , ‘Voter Responses to Women Senate Candidates’; Sawer, Marian and Simms, Marian, A Woman’s Place: Women and Politics in Australia (Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1984); Smith, and Fox, , ‘The Electoral Fortunes of Women Candidates for Congress’.

10 Inglehart, Ronald and Norris, Pippa, Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Norris, , ‘Women’s Legislative Participation in Western Europe’; Paxton and Hughes, Women, Politics, and Power; Reynolds, ‘Women in the Legislatures and Executives of the World’; Rule, ‘Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies’.

11 Darcy, , Welch, and Clark, , Women, Elections, and Representation; Inglehart and Norris, Rising Tide; Rule, ‘Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies’.

12 Sawer, and Simms, , A Woman’s Place.

13 Sawer, and Simms, , A Woman’s Place, p. 118.

14 Kelley, Jonathan and McAllister, Ian, ‘Ballot Paper Cues and the Vote in Australia and Britain: Alphabetical Voting, Sex, and Title’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 48 (1984), 452466.

15 Studlar, Donley T. and McAllister, Ian, ‘Political Recruitment to the Australian Legislature: Toward an Explanation of Women’s Electoral Disadvantages’, Western Political Quarterly, 44 (1991), 467485.

16 Bean, , ‘The Personal Vote in Australian Federal Elections’.

17 Galligan, Yvonne, ‘Ireland’, in Marion Tremblay and Yvonne Galligan, eds, Sharing Power: Women, Parliament, Democracy (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2005); Lane, John C., ‘The Election of Women under Proportional Representation: The Case of Malta’, Democratization, 2 (1995), 140157; Randall, Vicky and Smyth, Ailbhe, ‘Bishops and Bailiwicks: Obstacles to Women’s Political Participation in Ireland’, Economic and Social Review, 18 (1987), 189214.

18 Galligan, Yvonne and Wilford, Rick, ‘Women’s Political Representation in Ireland’, in Ellis Ward and Rick Wilford, eds, Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999), pp. 130148, at p. 142.

19 Galligan, , ‘Ireland’; Galligan and Wilford, ‘Women’s Political Representation in Ireland’.

20 Galligan, Yvonne, Laver, Michael and Carney, Gemma, ‘The Effect of Candidate Gender on Voting in Ireland 1997’, Irish Political Studies, 14 (1999), 118122; O’Kelly, Michael, ‘Gender and Voter Appeal in Irish Elections 1948–1997’, Economic and Social Review, 31 (2000), 249265.

21 Lane, , ‘The Election of Women under Proportional Representation’.

22 In our multivariate tests, we account for both incumbency, having run and won, and simply campaign experience, having run previously. By definition, incumbents have run previously.

23 Darcy, Robert and Choike, James R., ‘A Formal Analysis of Legislative Turnover: Women Candidates and Legislative Representation’, American Journal of Political Science, 30 (1986), 237255. In the context of the United States, Palmer and Simon find that while female incumbents win at the same rate as male candidates, they face a more competitive environment and tend to encourage female challengers to emerge.

24 Bean, , ‘The Personal Vote in Australian Federal Elections’.

25 District magnitude refers to the number of seats contested in each district. Party magnitude refers to the proportion of those seats won by a particular party.

26 Matland, Richard E., ‘Institutional Variables Affecting Female Representation in National Legislatures: The Case of Norway’, Journal of Politics, 55 (1993), 737755; Matland, Richard E. and Taylor, Michelle M., ‘Electoral System Effects on Women’s Representation: Theoretical Arguments and Evidence from Costa Rica’, Comparative Political Studies, 30 (1997), 186210; Rule, , ‘Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies’.

27 Engstrom, Richard L., ‘District Magnitude and the Election of Women to the Irish Dáil’, Electoral Studies, 6 (1987), 123132.

28 McDermott, Monika L., ‘Voting Cues in Low-Information Elections: Candidate Gender as a Social Information Variable in Contemporary United States Elections’, American Journal of Political Science, 41 (1997), 270283; Seltzer, , Newman, and Voorhees Leighton, Sex as a Political Variable.

29 Darcy, , Welch, and Clark, , Women, Elections, and Representation; Darcy and Choike, ‘A Formal Analysis of Legislative Turnover: Women Candidates and Legislative Representation’; Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., ‘The Incumbency Disadvantage and Women’s Election to Legislative Office’, Electoral Studies, 24 (2005), 227244.

30 Darcy, and Choike, , ‘A Formal Analysis of Legislative Turnover: Women Candidates and Legislative Representation’.

31 We do not explain access to the candidate pool or candidate emergence, and consequently do not have to control for factors that help or hurt women’s entry to the candidate pool or access to the ballot, such as socio-economic factors or party rules. Instead, we start with candidates already on party ballots and try to explain who moves from candidate to seatholder and why.

32 First-count, first-rank vote share is the percentage of first preference votes a candidate receives prior to any vote transfers from additional vote counts. Ideally, these data would be analysed with estimators developed to account for the fact that vote shares of any one candidate are a function of the vote shares of all other candidates, but to our knowledge, those tools have not been extended to capture multilevel data structures (Honaker, James, King, Gary and Katz, Jonathan N., ‘A Fast, Easy, and Efficient Estimator for Multiparty Electoral Data’, Political Analysis, 10 (2002), 84100).

33 A fourth level is time or election. We include a time counter in our models because we suspect that there might be a trend towards more progressive thinking about the election of women and because we think that factors associated with specific electoral context could influence the results. However, as the models in Appendix Table A1 illustrate, specific electoral context is never decisively different from zero. Our observations are also nested within countries. Although we expect some effects (incumbency) to operate similarly across cases, we model countries separately to show how gender affects election outcomes in each country.

34 Steenbergen, Marco R. and Jones, Bradford S., ‘Modelling Multilevel Data Structures’, American Journal of Political Science, 46 (2002), 218237.

35 Gelman, Andrew and Hill, Jennifer, Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 246.

36 We estimate the models using the lme4 package in R, which fits a restricted maximum-likelihood (REML) model. We then simulate the parameters of these fitted models via Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) empirical Bayes methods to incorporate appropriate model uncertainty. Finally, we compare multilevel coefficient estimates to those from a completely pooled model fit by MCMC with comparably weak priors. The lme4 method estimates a higher-level coefficient via a restricted variance-covariance matrix at each level. By contrast, a fully Bayesian approach would model the varying coefficients directly.

37 The data for candidate gender in Malta were from former University at Buffalo Professor John C. Lane’s website of Malta data, www.maltadata.com. For Ireland and Australia, no dataset of candidate gender was available, and we coded the gender of candidates ourselves. In many cases, candidate gender was clear from the candidate’s name, however, in other cases, the names were ambiguous as to gender. For these individuals, we conducted internet searches on the candidates, consulted political scholars and staff in relevant government offices in Ireland and Australia, and cross-checked the final coding against official government publications that reported the number of female candidates running in each election.

38 We considered controlling for party ideology but could not find any measures of party orientation that covered all of the parties in our dataset. Rather than lose cases, we report models that do not include a control for party ideology. We did run the reduced-n models, however, to determine whether ignoring party ideology biases our conclusions. Using data from the Australian Election Study and the Eurobarometer, we created a variable that measures a party’s mean ideology by calculating the mean self-placement scores for all respondents who say they would vote for a particular party. The results showed that no statistically discernible effect for candidate gender interacted with party orientation. Models are available from the authors upon request.

39 We had hoped to control for variations in religiosity across districts, but finding comparable data for every district in each of the three countries across five elections proved impossible. Rather than drop cases, we do not include an explicit consideration of religion in the models. We did run reduced-n models based on survey data from the Eurobarometer and Australian Election Study (no district-level data were available for Malta), and these models do not support the hypothesis that women’s electoral success is limited by religious affiliation. The estimated impact of Catholicism in both countries is substantively small and not statistically discernible from zero. Models are available from the authors upon request.

40 Candidates who competed successfully in the previous election are coded as incumbents.

41 Kelley, and McAllister, , ‘Ballot Paper Cues and the Vote in Australia and Britain: Alphabetical Voting, Sex, and Title’.

42 Kelley, and McAllister, , ‘Ballot Paper Cues and the Vote in Australia and Britain’.

43 Gelman, Andrew, Pasarica, Cristian and Dodhia, Rahul, ‘Let’s Practice What We Preach: Turning Tables into Graphs’, American Statistician, 56 (2002), 121130; Kastellec, Jonathan P. and Leoni, Eduardo L., ‘Using Graphs Instead of Tables in Political Science’, Perspectives on Politics, 5 (2007), 755771.

44 Bayesian credible intervals are different from classical statistics confidence intervals. The ‘credible interval’ is the highest-density region of a simulated posterior distribution, which may or may not approximate a normal distribution. Like confidence intervals, credible intervals indicate the degree of uncertainty around the parameter estimate. However, they are better estimates of uncertainty, because they are based on a series of simulations that provide a prediction of the probability that the estimate will fall within a certain interval, which confidence intervals do not do. For those interested in ‘statistical significance’, a ‘significant’ covariate is one whose credible interval does not include the vertical line at zero in the figures. If the credible interval does not include zero, then we can reject the null hypothesis because the probability is greater than 90 per cent that the estimate will have at least some effect.

45 Detailed results from the pooled models are available from the authors upon request. We omitted them from Appendix Table A1 for reasons of space.

46 Indicators of model fit, specifically the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) and the Deviance Information Criterion (DIC), favour the multilevel models. The BIC and DIC are proportional to the marginal likelihood of the model, and account differently for the number of effective parameters – some value between the number of covariates k, and k times the number of units. Further, in a few cases, the pooled models either overstate or understate the effect of covariates measured at the higher (not individual) levels. The estimation of intercepts for the higher-level units of observation (parties-in-districts and districts) did not account for a tremendous amount of unmodelled variation, but they often had non-zero variance.

47 Lane, , ‘The Election of Women under Proportional Representation’.

48 The proportion of incumbents defending contested seats occasionally exceeds 1 in Ireland, as individual candidates can compete in multiple districts.

49 The proportion of incumbents defending contested seats frequently exceeds 1 in Malta, as individual candidates can and do compete in multiple districts.

* Schwindt-Bayer: Department of Political Science, University of Missouri, Columbia (email: ); Malecki and Crisp: Department of Political Science, Washington University in St Louis. The authors wish to thank the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St Louis for research support. A previous version of this article was presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.

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