Skip to main content Accessibility help

Political Leadership in the Media: Gender Bias in Leader Stereotypes during Campaign and Routine Times

  • Loes Aaldering and Daphne Joanna Van Der Pas

This article studies gender differences in media portrayals of political leadership, starting with the expectation that male politicians are evaluated more often on traits belonging to the male leader stereotype, and that female politicians have no such advantage. These gender differences are expected to be especially pronounced during non-campaign periods. To test these expectations, a large-scale automated content analysis of all Dutch national newspapers from September 2006 to September 2012 was conducted. The results show that male politicians received more media coverage on leadership traits in general, although the male and female leader stereotypes explain most of the variation in gender bias between leadership traits. These gender effects are found during seldom-studied routine periods but not during campaigns. As leadership trait coverage has electoral consequences, this gender-differentiated coverage likely contributes to the under-representation of women in politics.

Hide All

Department of Communication, University of Vienna (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam (email: Both authors contributed equally to the article. We thank the participants of the workshops at the Politicologenetmaal 2015 in Maastricht, the Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2015 in Antwerp, the ECPG conference in Uppsala, and the ECPR general conference 2015 in Montreal for their insightful suggestions. In addition, we thank the participants of the Comparative Politics PhD Club of the University of Amsterdam and the Comparative Politics Research and Writing group of the Ohio State University for their useful feedback. We are also very grateful to Angela Bos, Monica Schneider, Amanda Bittner, Anthony Mughan, Gijs Schumacher, Mariken van der Velden and the three anonymous reviewers for comments on previous drafts. This study was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in connection to the research programme ‘Continuously campaigning for volatile voters. How policy positions and leadership images affect citizens’ vote intentions before and during campaign periods, the Netherlands 2006-2012’ (NWO406-13-038). Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices at: See: Aaldering and Van der Pas (2017).

Hide All
Aalberg, Toril, and Strömbäck, Jesper. 2011. Media-Driven Men and Media-Critical Women? An Empirical Study of Gender and MPs’ Relationships with the Media in Norway and Sweden. International Political Science Review 32:167187.
Aaldering, Loes, and Van der Pas, Daphne. 2017. Replication Data for: Political Leadership in the Media: Gender Bias in Leader Stereotypes during Campaign and Routine Times. doi:10.7910/DVN/HS4W33, Harvard Dataverse, V1.
Aaldering, Loes, and Vliegenthart, Rens. 2016. Political Leaders and the Media. Can We Measure Political Leadership Images in Newspapers Using Computer-Assisted Content Analysis? Quality and Quantity 50:18711905.
Aaldering, Loes, van der Meer, Tom, and van der Brug, Wouter. 2018. Mediated Leadership Effects: The Influence of Party Leader Portrayal in Newspapers on Electoral Support. International Journal of Press/Politics 23:7094.
Aarts, Kees, Blais, Andre, and Schmitt, Hermann. 2011. Political Leaders and Democratic Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Anon. 2015. Global Gender Gap Report. World Economic Forum. Available at, accessed 29 July 2016.
Aronson, Elliot. 2004. The Social Animal. New York: Worth Publishers.
Atkeson, Lonna Rae, and Krebs, Timothy B.. 2008. Press Coverage of Mayoral Candidates: The Role of Gender in News Reporting and Campaign Issue Speech. Political Research Quarterly 61:239252.
Bass, Bernard M. 1981. Bass & Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research & Managerial Applications. New York: Free Press.
Bauer, Nichole M. 2013. Rethinking Stereotype Reliance: Understanding the Connection Between Female Candidates and Gender Stereotypes. Politics & Life Sciences 32:2242.
Beck, Nathaniel, and Katz, Jonathan N.. 1995. What to Do (and Not to Do) with Time-Series Cross-Section Data. American Political Science Review 89:634647.
Bennett, W. Lance. 1990. Toward a Theory of Press-State Relations in the United States. Journal of Communication 40:103127.
Bittner, Amanda. 2011. Platform or Personality?: The Role of Party Leaders in Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Blondel, Jean. 1987. Political Leadership: Towards a General Analysis. London: Sage.
Bode, Leticia, and Hennings, Valerie M.. 2012. Mixed Signals? Gender and the Media’s Coverage of the 2008 Vice Presidential Candidates. Politics & Policy 40:221257.
Bystrom, Dianne G., Robertson, Terry A., and Banwart, Mary Christine. 2001. Framing the Fight: An Analysis of Media Coverage of Female and Male Candidates in Primary Races for Governor and U.S. Senate in 2000. American Behavioral Scientist 44:19992013.
Dan, Viorela, and Iorgoveanu, Aurora. 2013. Still On the Beaten Path How Gender Impacted the Coverage of Male and Female Romanian Candidates for European Office. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 18:208233.
Devitt, J. 2002. Framing Gender on the Campaign Trail: Female Gubernatorial Candidates and the Press. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 79:445463.
Dittmar, Kelly. 2015. Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Esser, Frank, and Strömbäck, Jesper. 2014. Mediatization of Politics: Understanding the Transformation of Western Democracies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Fridkin, Kim L., and Kenney, Patrick J.. 2014. The Changing Face of Representation The Gender of U.S. Senators and Constituent Communications. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Funk, Carolyn L. 1999. Bringing the Candidate into Models of Candidate Evaluation. Journal of Politics 61:700720.
Gilbert, Daniel T., and Hixon, Gregory J.. 1991. The Trouble of Thinking: Activation and Application of Stereotypic Beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60:509517.
Hayes, Danny, and Lawless, Jennifer L.. 2015. A Non-Gendered Lens? Media, Voters, and Female Candidates in Contemporary Congressional Elections. Perspectives on Politics 13:95118.
Hayes, Danny, and Lawless, Jennifer L.. 2016. Women on the Run Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Heilman, Madeline E., Block, Caryn J., and Martell, Richard F.. 1995. Sex Stereotypes: Do They Influence Perceptions of Managers? Journal of Scoial Behavior and Personality 10:237252.
Heldman, Caroline, Carroll, Susan J., and Olson, Stephanie. 2005. ‘She Brought Only a Skirt’: Print Media Coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s Bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Political Communication 22:315335.
Helms, Ludger. 2012. Democratic Political Leadership in the New Media Age: A Farewell to Excellence? The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 14:651670.
Hooghe, Marc, Jacobs, Laura, and Claes, Ellen. 2015. Enduring Gender Bias in Reporting on Political Elite Positions: Media Coverage of Female MPs in Belgian News Broadcasts (2003–2011). The International Journal of Press/Politics 20:395414.
Hopmann, David Nicolas, de Vreese, Claes H., and Albæk, Erik. 2011. Incumbency Bonus in Election News Coverage Explained: The Logics of Political Power and the Media Market. Journal of Communication 61:264282.
Inglehart, Ronald, Norris, Pippa, and Welzel, Christian. 2002. Gender Equality and Democracy. Comparative Sociology 1:321345.
Jalalzai, Farida. 2006. Women Candidates and the Media: 1992–2000 Elections. Politics & Policy 34:606633.
Jennings, Will, and Wlezien, Christopher. 2016. The Timeline of Election Campaigns: A Comparative Perspective. American Journal of Political Science 60:219233.
Johnston, Richard. 2002. Prime Ministerial Contenders in Canada. In Leaders’ Personalities and the Outcomes of Democratic Elections, edited by Anthony King, 158183. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kahn, Kim Fridkin. 1994. The Distorted Mirror: Press Coverage of Women Candidates for Statewide Office. The Journal of Politics 56:154173.
Kahn, Kim Fridkin, and Goldenberg, Edie N.. 1991. Women Candidates in the News: An Examination of Gender Differences in U.S. Senate Campaign Coverage. Public Opinion Quarterly 55:180199.
Kinder, Donald R. 1986. Presidential Character Revisited. Pp 233256 in Political Cognition, edited by Richard R. Lau and David O. Sears. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Kinder, Donald R., Peters, Mark D., Abelson, Robert P., and Fiske, Susan T.. 1980. Presidential Prototypes. Political Behavior 2:315337.
Kittilson, Miki Caul, and Fridkin, Kim. 2008. Gender, Candidate Portrayals and Election Campaigns: A Comparative Perspective. Politics & Gender 4:371392.
Kleinnijenhuis, Jan, Maurer, Marcus, Kepplinger, Hans Mathias, and Oegema, Dirk. 2001. Issues and Personalities in German and Dutch Television News Patterns and Effects. European Journal of Communication 16:337359.
Koenig, Anne M., Eagly, Alice H., Mitchell, Abigail A., and Ristikari, Tiina. 2011. Are Leader Stereotypes Masculine? A Meta-Analysis of Three Research Paradigms. Psychological Bulletin 137:616642.
Lobo, Marina C., and Curtice, John. 2014. Personality Politics?: The Role of Leader Evaluations in Democratic Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lühiste, Maarja, and Banducci, Susan. 2016. Invisible Women? Comparing Candidates’ News Coverage in Europe. Gender & Politics 12:223253.
McCombs, Maxwell E. 1997. Building Consensus: The News Media’s Agenda Setting Roles. Political Communication 14:433443.
McCombs, Maxwell, Llamas, Juan, Lopez-Escobar, Esteban, and Rey, Federico. 1997. Candidate Images in Spanish Elections: Second-Level Agenda-Setting Effects. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 74:703717.
Meeks, Lindsey. 2012. Is She ‘Man Enough’? Women Candidates, Executive Political Offices, and News Coverage. Journal of Communication 62:175193.
Miller, Arthur H., Wattenberg, Martin P., and Malanchuk, Oksana. 1986. Schematic Assessments of Presidential Candidates. American Political Science Review 80:521540.
Mughan, Anthony. 2000. Media and the Presidentialization of Parliamentary Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ohr, Dieter, and Oscarsson, Henrik. 2011. Leader Traits, Leader Image, and Vote Choice. In Political Leaders and Democratic Elections, edited by Kees Aarts, André Blais and Hermann Schmitt, 187219. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Richards, Zoeë, and Hewstone, Miles. 2001. Subtyping and Subgrouping: Processes for the Prevention and Promotion of Stereotype Change. Personality and Social Psychology Review 5:5273.
Robinson, M. 1976. Public Affairs Television and the Growth of Political Malaise: The Case of the Selling of the Pentagon. American Political Science Review 70:409432.
Schneider, Monica C., and Bos, Angela L.. 2014. Measuring Stereotypes of Female Politicians. Political Psychology 35:245266.
Schneider, Monica C., Holman, Mirya R., Diekman, Amanda B., and McAndrew., Thomas 2016. Power, Conflict, and Community: How Gendered Views of Political Power Influence Women’s Political Ambition. Political Psychology 37:515531.
Sczesny, Sabine, Bosak, Janine, Neff, Daniel, and Schyns., Birgit 2004. Gender Stereotypes and the Attribution of Leadership Traits: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Sex Roles 51:631645.
Semetko, Holli A., and Boomgaarden, Hajo G.. 2007. Reporting Germany’s 2005 Bundestag Election Campaign: Was Gender an Issue? The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 12:154171.
Simonton, Dean K. 1986. Presidential Personality: Biographical Use of the Gough Adjective Check List. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51:149160.
Strömbäck, Jesper. 2008. Four Phases of Mediatization: An Analysis of the Mediatization of Politics. The International Journal of Press/Politics 13:228246.
Valenzuela, Sebastian, and Correa, Theresa. 2009. Press Coverage and Public Opinion on Women Candidates. The Case of Chile’s Michelle Bachelet. International Communication Gazette 71:181202.
Van Aelst, Peter, and De Swert, Knut. 2009. Politics in the News: Do Campaigns Matter? A Comparison of Political News during Election Periods and Routine Periods in Flanders (Belgium). Communications 34:149168.
Van der Meer, Tom, van Elsas, Erika, Lubbe, Rosemarijn, and van der Brug, Wouter. 2015. Are Volatile Voters Erratic, Whimsical or Seriously Picky? A Panel Study of 58 Waves into the Nature of Electoral Volatility (The Netherlands 2006–2010). Party Politics 21:100114.
Van der Meer, Tom, Van Elsas, Erika, Lubbe, Rozemarijn, and Van der Brug, Wouter. 2012. Kieskeurige Kiezers: Een Onderzoek Naar de Veranderlijkheid van Nederlandse Kiezers, 20062010 [Picky Voters: An Investigation into the Changeability of Dutch Voters, 2006-2010]. Available at, accessed 2 January 2018.
Walgrave, Stefaan, and van Aelst, Peter. 2006. The Contingency of the Mass Media’s Political Agenda Setting Power: Toward a Preliminary Theory. Journal of Communication 56:88109.
Wattenberg, Martin P. 1991. The Rise of Candidate-Centered Politics: Presidential Elections of the 1980s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wattenberg, Martin P.. 1998. The Decline of American Political Parties, 19521996 . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Aaldering and Van Der Pas Dataset

Supplementary materials

Aaldering and Van Der Pas supplementary material

 PDF (848 KB)
848 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed