Skip to main content Accessibility help

Voter Reasoning Bias When Evaluating Statements from Female and Male Political Candidates

  • Jens Koed Madsen (a1)


The article examines whether female political candidates are disfavored in terms of persuasiveness potential based on their expertise and trustworthiness. Using a Bayesian argumentation paradigm in which candidates endorse policies, this study shows that male voters regard female candidates as less persuasive than male candidates. A controlled between-subjects experiment among 202 potential voters in the United States suggests that female election candidates are subject to sex biases in two central ways. First, despite agreeing on their trustworthiness and expertise, male voters find highly credible female candidates less persuasive than identical male candidates. Second, female candidates are affected more adversely if they are perceived as lacking in trustworthiness. Male candidates, on the other hand, are affected more negatively if they are perceived as lacking in expertise. Whereas perceived lack of expertise is relatively easy to repair, trustworthiness may be difficult to regain once it is lost. In a political environment in which attack ads are prevalent, this may carry a greater negative impact for female candidates.



Hide All
Bauer, Nichole M. 2015. “Emotional, Sensitive, and Unfit for Office? Gender Stereotype Activation and Support Female Candidates.” Political Psychology 36 (6): 691708.
Bernstein, Arla G. 2000. “The Effects of Message Theme, Policy Explicitness, and Candidate Gender.” Communication Quarterly 48 (2): 159–73.
Brauer, Markus, Wasel, Wolfgang, and Niedenthal, Paula. 2000. “Implicit and Explicit Components of Prejudice.” Review of General Psychology 4 (1): 79101.
Brooks, Deborah Jordan. 2010. “A Negativity Gap? Voter Gender, Attack Politics, and Participation in American Elections.” Politics & Gender 6 (3): 319–41.
Carlin, Diana B., and Winfrey, Kelly L.. 2009. “Have You Come a Long Way, Baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008 Campaign Coverage.” Communication Studies 60 (4): 326–43.
Cavazza, Nicoletta, and Guidetti, Margherita. 2014. “Swearing in Political Discourse: Why Vulgarity Works.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology 33 (5): 537–47.
Chaiken, Shelly, and Maheswaran, Durairaj. 1994. “Heuristic Processing Can Bias Systematic Processing: Effects of Source Credibility, Argument Ambiguity, and Task Importance on Attitude Judgement.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 66 (3): 460–73.
Coffé, Hilde, and Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. 2016. “The Effect of Political Candidates’ Occupational Background on Voters’ Perception of and Support for Candidates.” Political Science 68 (1): 5577.
Cuddy, Amy J. C., Glick, Peter, and Beninger, Anna. 2011. “The Dynamics of Warmth and Competence Judgments, and Their Outcomes in Organizations.” Research in Organizational Behavior 31: 7398.
Cuddy, Amy J. C., Fiske, Susan T., Kwan, Virginia S. Y., Glick, Peter, Demoulin, Stéphanie, Leyens, Jacques-Philippe, Bond, Michael Harris, et al. 2009. “Stereotype Content Model across Cultures: Towards Universal Similarities and Some Differences.” British Journal of Social Psychology 48 (1): 133.
Ditonto, Tessa M., Hamilton, Allison J., and Redlawsk, David P.. 2014. “Gender Stereotypes, Information Search, and Voting Behavior in Political Campaigns.” Political Behavior 36 (2): 335–58.
Dolan, Kathleen A. 2014. What Does Gender Matter? Women Candidates and Gender Stereotypes in American Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dolan, Kathleen, and Lynch, Timothy. 2014. “It Takes a Survey: Understanding Gender Stereotypes, Abstract Attitudes, and Voting for Women Candidates.” American Politics Research 42 (4): 656–76.
Dolan, Kathleen, and Lynch, Timothy. 2016. “The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on Voting for Women Candidates by Level and Type of Office.” Politics & Gender 12 (3): 573–95.
Evans, Jonathan St. B. T., and Over, David E.. 2004. If. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fiske, Susan T., and Cuddy, Amy J. C.. 2006. “Stereotype Content and Relative Group Status across Cultures.” In Social Comparison and Social Psychology: Understanding Culture, Intergroup Relations, and Cognition, ed. Guimond, Serge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 249–63.
Fiske, Susan T., Cuddy, Amy J. C., and Glick, Peter. 2007. “Universal Dimensions of Social Cognition: Warmth and Competence.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (2): 7783.
Hahn, Ulrike, Harris, Adam J. L., and Corner, Adam. 2009. “Argument Content and Argument Source: An Exploration.” Informal Logic 29 (4): 337–67.
Hansen, Susan B., and Otero, Laura Wills. 2006. “A Woman for U.S. President? Gender and Leadership Traits before and after 9/11.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 27 (1): 3560.
Harris, Adam J. L., Hahn, Ulrike, Madsen, Jens K., and Hsu, Anne S.. 2015. “The Appeal to Expert Opinion: Quantitative Support for a Bayesian Network Approach.” Cognitive Science 39 (7): 138.
Hetsroni, Amir, and Lowenstein, Hila. 2014. “Is She an Expert or Just a Woman? Gender Differences in the Presentation of Experts in TV Talk Shows.” Sex Roles 70 (9–10): 376–86.
Holman, Mirya R., Merolla, Jennifer L., and Zechmeister, Elizabeth J.. 2011. “Sex, Stereotypes, and Security: A Study of the Effects of Terrorist Threat on Assessments of Female Leadership.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 32 (3): 173–92.
Holman, Mirya R., Schneider, Monica C., and Pondel, Kristin. 2015. “Gender Targeting in Political Advertisements.” Political Research Quarterly 68 (4): 816–29.
Housholder, Elizabeth E., and LaMarre, Heather L.. 2014. “Facebook Politics: Toward a Process Model for Achieving Political Source Credibility Through Social Media.” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 11 (4): 368–82.
Howson, Colin, and Urbach, Peter. 1993. Scientific Reasoning: The Bayesian Approach. 2nd ed. Chicago: Open Court.
Huddy, Leonie, and Terkildsen, Nayda. 1993. “Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (1): 119–47.
Iyengar, Shanto. 1991. Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Krosch, Amy R., and Amodio, David M.. 2014. “Economic Scarcity Alters the Perception of Race.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 111 (25): 90799084.
Larson, Bridget A., and Brodsky, Stanley L.. 2014. “Assertive Women as Expert Witnesses: A Study of Assertive and Defensive Responses in Male and Female Experts.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 32 (2): 149–63.
Laustsen, Lasse. 2014. “Decomposing the Relationship between Candidates’ Facial Appearance and Electoral Success.” Political Behavior 36 (4): 777–91.
Laustsen, Lasse. 2017. “Choosing the Right Candidate: Observational and Experimental Evidence That Conservatives and Liberals Prefer Powerful and Warm Candidate Personalities, Respectively.” Political Behavior 39 (4): 883908.
Lee, Yu-Kang. 2014. “Gender Stereotypes as a Double-Edged Sword in Political Advertising.” International Journal of Advertising: The Review of Marketing Communications 33 (2): 203–34.
Leeper, Mark Stephen. 1991. “The Impact of Prejudice on Female Candidates: An Experimental Look at Voter Inference.” American Politics Quarterly Research 19 (2): 248–61.
Lundqvist., D., Flykt, A. and Öhman, A.. 1998. The Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces—KDEF. Solna: Karolinska Institute. Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychology Section. CD-ROM.
Madsen, Jens K. 2016. “Trump Supported It?! A Bayesian Source Credibility Model Applied to Appeals to Specific American Presidential Candidates’ Opinions.” In Papafragou, A., Grodner, D., Mirman, D., and Trueswell, J. C., eds., Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society, 165–70.
Meeks, Lindsey. 2012. “Is She ‘Man Enough’? Women Candidates, Executive Political Offices, and News Coverage.” Journal of Communication 62 (1): 175–93.
Neal, Tess M. S., Guadagno, Rosanna E., Eno, Cassie A., and Brodsky, Stanley L.. 2012. “Warmth and Competence on the Witness Stand: Implications for the Credibility of Male and Female Expert Witnesses.” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 40 (4): 488–97.
Oaksford, Mike, and Chater, Nick. 2007. Bayesian Rationality: The Probabilistic Approach to Human Reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Paolacci, Gabriele, Chandler, Jesse, and Ipeirotis, Panagiotis G.. 2010. “Running Experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk.” Judgement and Decision Making 5 (5): 411–19.
Paul, David, and Smith, Jessi L.. 2008. “Subtle Sexism? Examining Vote Preferences When Women Run against Men for the Presidency.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 29 (4): 451–76.
Payne, Brian Keith. 2001. “Prejudice and Perception: The Role of Automatic and Controlled Processes in Misperceiving a Weapon.” Journal of Personality Social Psychology 81 (2): 181–92.
Petty, Richard E., and Cacioppo, John T.. 1984. “Source Factors and the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion.” Advances in Consumer Research 11: 668–72.
Pornpitakpan, Chanthika. 2004. “The Persuasiveness of Source Credibility: A Critical Review of Five Decades’ Evidence.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 34 (2): 243–81.
Rodeheffer, Christopher D., Hill, Sarah E., and Lord, Charles G.. 2012. “Does This Recession Make Me Look Black? The Effect of Resource Scarcity on the Categorization of Biracial Faces.” Psychological Science 23 (12): 1476–78.
Rudman, Laurie A., and Phelan, Julie E.. 2010. “The Effect of Priming Gender Roles on Women's Implicit Gender Beliefs and Career Aspirations.” Social Psychology 41 (3): 192202.
Rudman, Laurie A., and Kiliansky, Stephen T.. 2000. “Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Toward Female Authority.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (11): 1315–28.
Sassenberg, Kai, Brazy, Paige C., Jonas, Kai J., and Shah, James Y.. 2013. “When Gender Fits Self-Regulatory Preferences: The Impact of Regulatory Fit on Gender-Based Ingroup Favoritism.” Social Psychology 44 (1): 415.
Schneider, M. C., and Bos, Angela L.. 2014. “Measuring Stereotypes of Female Politicians.” Political Psychology 35 (2): 245–66.
Schubert, Renate, Brown, Martin, Gysler, Matthias, and Brachinger, Hans Woldgang. 1999. “Financial Decision-Making: Are Women Really More Risk-Averse?American Economic Review 89 (2): 381–85.
Sjöström, Ove, and Holst, Dorthe. 2002. “Validity of a Questionnaire Survey: Response Patterns in Different Subgroups and the Effect of Social Desirability.” Acta Odontologica 60 (3): 136–40.
Smith, Jessi L., Paul, David, and Paul, Rachel. 2007. “No Place for a Woman: Evidence for Gender Bias in Evaluations of Presidential Candidates.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 29 (3): 225–33.
Steele, Claude M. 1997. “A Threat in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance.” American Psychologist 52 (6): 613–29.
Tormala, Zakary L., and Clarkson, Joshua J.. 2007. “Assimilation and Contrast in Persuasion: The Effects of Source Credibility in Multiple Message Situations.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33 (4): 559–71.
Walton, Gregory M., and Cohen, Geoffrey L.. 2003. “Stereotype Lift.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39 (5): 456–67.


Voter Reasoning Bias When Evaluating Statements from Female and Male Political Candidates

  • Jens Koed Madsen (a1)


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