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Religion, Race, and Gender Differences in Political Ambition

  • Robert G. Moore (a1)

Existing studies of political ambition tell two different stories, male and female. Most research on political ambition focuses on the desire of men and women to hold political office at the state or national level and examines the ambitions of those already employed in the labor force. Scholarly inattention to ambition among activists at the local, neighborhood level may lead us to erroneous conclusions about people's motivations for engaging in politics, particularly along racial lines. A focus on those already in the workforce may distort our understanding of the factors that drive the political ambitions of women in particular. This study confirms that men and women have distinct paths of family socialization, qualifications, high school and college socialization, and life situations on the trail to ambition. It also shows that the local context changes the explanations for ambition. In particular, race, combined with the holding of conservative religious beliefs, varies in its impact upon white and minority women's expressions of ambition for future public office. In addition, the experience of sex discrimination has the countersocialization effect of increasing women's ambition.Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2003 meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois and the 2005 meetings of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, Louisiana. I would like to thank William G. Jacoby, Marcia Moore, the editors and anonymous reviewers for their generous comments in the preparation of this manuscript. Also thanks to Kay Lehman Schlozman and David Campbell for their comments and redirection on a much earlier version of this work.

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Politics & Gender
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