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When Gender and Party Collide: Stereotyping in Candidate Trait Attribution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2011

Danny Hayes
American University


Research has shown that voters are willing to stereotype candidates on the basis of their gender, which can sometimes pose obstacles and sometimes prove advantageous for female politicians. But the literature is uncertain about how candidate gender interacts with candidate party affiliation to shape voters' perceptions. In this article, I draw on political psychology, the women and politics literature, and recent work on partisan “trait ownership” to suggest that the application of gender stereotypes will be limited by the salience of partisan stereotypes. I use nationally representative survey data and a content analysis of news coverage from the 2006 U.S. Senate elections to test the argument. Focusing on voter evaluations of candidate traits, I find that party stereotypes are more powerful than gender stereotypes, and that assessments of candidate attributes can be affected by news coverage when candidates are portrayed in ways that challenge traditional partisan images. The results suggest that gender stereotyping is limited by the relevance of party stereotypes, and that as the Republican and Democratic parties continue to polarize at the elite level, the importance of partisan stereotyping is likely to increase.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2011

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