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

  • Loes Aaldering and Daphne Joanna Van Der Pas
Abstract

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.

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Department of Communication, University of Vienna (email: loes.aaldering@univie.ac.at); Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam (email: d.j.vanderpas@uva.nl). 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: https://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/HS4W33 and online appendices at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123417000795. See: Aaldering and Van der Pas (2017).

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