Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 June 2021
Scholars increasingly recognize that voters’ attitudes about gender shape their electoral preferences. Yet previous research has not captured important nuances of the relationship between gender attitudes and electoral choice. We argue that the effects of gender attitudes are not unidirectional and interact in complex ways with voters’ perceptions of candidates, depending not only on candidates’ sex but also on their gender-relevant characteristics and values. We draw on an original survey of Americans during the 2016 elections that measured three gender attitudes—hostile sexism, modern sexism, and traditional gender roles—and evaluations of primary and general election candidates. Our study design increases analytical leverage by examining actual and hypothetical candidate matchups. We find that among Democrats, hostile sexists were drawn to Bernie Sanders, but gender traditionalists preferred Hillary Clinton. Our results also suggest that if Sanders had been the Democratic nominee, gender egalitarians would have strongly supported him over Donald Trump, as they did Clinton.
We are grateful to Jennie Sweet-Cushman, Leonie Huddy, and Allison M. N. Archer for their helpful comments and discussion and to the three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.