Skip to main content

What It Takes to Win: Questioning “Gender Neutral” Outcomes in U.S. House Elections

  • Kathryn Pearson (a1) and Eric McGhee (a2)

When women run for office, they win at the same rate as men. A significant body of research substantiating this claim has been touted by scholars and women's groups alike. “Gender neutral” outcomes, however, mask important sex differences in congressional candidacies. Indeed, extensive research has revealed a gender gap in political ambition: women are more hesitant to run for office and are more concerned about their credentials and viability than similarly situated men.

Hide All
Abramowitz, Alan I., Alexander, Brad, and Gunning, Matthew. 2006. “Incumbency, Redistricting, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections.” Journal of Politics 68 (1): 7588.
Alexander, Deborah, and Andersen, Kristi. 1993. “Gender as a Factor in the Attributions of Leadership Traits.” Political Research Quarterly 46 (3): 527–45.
Anzia, Sarah F., and Berry, Christopher R.. 2011. “The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen?American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 478–93.
Burrell, Barbara C. 1994. A Woman's Place is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Burrell, Barbara C.. 2006. “Political Parties and Women's Organizations: Bringing Women into the Electoral Arena.” In Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American Politics, eds. Carroll, Susan J. and Fox, Richard L.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bystrom, Diane G., Banwart, Mary C., Kaid, Lynda Lee, and Robertson, Terry. 2004. Gender and Candidate Communication: VideoStyles, WebStyles, NewsStyles. New York: Routledge.
Carroll, Susan J. 1994. Women as Candidates in American Politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Carroll, Susan J.. 2009. “Reflections on Gender and Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign: The Good, the Bad, and the Misogynic.” Politics & Gender 5 (1): 120.
Cook, Elizabeth Adell. 1998. “Voter Reaction to Women Candidates.” In Women and Elective Office, ed. Thomas, Sue and Wilcox, Clyde. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cook, Elizabeth Adell, Thomas, Sue, and Wilcox, Clyde, eds. 1994. The Year of the Woman: Myths and Realities. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Diamond, Irene. 1977. Sex Roles in the Statehouse. New Haven, CT: Yale University.
Dodson, Debra L. 1998. “Representing Women's Interests in the U.S. House of Representatives.” In Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future, ed. Thomas, Sue and Wilcox, Clyde. New York: Oxford University Press.
Duerst-Lahti, Georgia. 1998. “The Bottleneck, Women Candidates.” In Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future, ed. Thomas, Sue and Wilcox, Clyde. Oxford University Press.
Elder, Laurel. 2012. “The Partisan Gap Among Women State Legislators.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 33 (1): 6585.
Falk, Erika, and Kenski, Kate. 2006. “Issue Saliency and Gender Stereotypes: Support for Women as Presidents in Times of War and Terrorism.” Social Science Quarterly 87 (1): 118.
Fowler, Linda L., and McClure, Robert. 1989. Political Ambition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Fox, Richard L. 2006. “Congressional Elections: Where are We on the Road to Gender Parity?” In Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American Politics, ed. Carroll, Susan J. and Fox, Richard L.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fox, Richard L., and Lawless, Jennifer L.. 2010. “If Only They'd Ask: Gender, Recruitment, and Political Ambition.” Journal of Politics 72 (2): 310–26.
Freeman, Jo. 1986. “The Political Culture of the Democratic and Republican Parties.” Political Science Quarterly 101 (3): 327–56.
Freeman, Jo. 1997. “Change and Continuity for Women at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.” American Review of Politics 18: 353–67.
Fulton, Sarah A. 2012. “Running Backwards and in High Heels: The Gendered Quality Gap and Incumbent Electoral Success.” Political Research Quarterly 65 (2): 303–14.
Fulton, Sarah, Maestas, Cherie, Maisel, L. Sandy, and Stone, Walter J.. 2006. “The Sense of a Woman: Gender and Congressional Ambition.” Political Research Quarterly 59 (2): 235–48.
Gaddie, Ronald Keith, and Bullock, Charles S. III. 2000. Elections to Open Seats in the U.S. House. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.
Gaddie, Ronald Keith, Hoffman, Kim U., and Palmer, Carrie. 2000. “Congressional Elections Beyond the Year of the Woman: A Research Update.” Social Science Quarterly 81 (3): 879–84.
Green, Donald Philip, and Krasno, Jonathan S.. 1988. “Salvation for the Spendthrift Incumbent: Reestimating the Effects of Campaign Spending in House Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 32 (4): 884907.
Green, Joanne Connor. 1998. “The Role of Gender in Open-Seat Elections for the House of Representatives: A District Level Test for a Differential Value for Campaign Resources.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 19 (2): 3355.
Herrick, Rebekah. 1996. “Is There a Gender Gap in the Value of Campaign Resources?American Politics Quarterly 24 (1): 6880.
Hoffman, Kim U., Palmer, Carrie, and Gaddie, Ronald Keith. 2001. “Candidate Sex and Congressional Elections: Open Seats Before, During, and After the Year of the Woman.” Women & Politics 23 (1): 3758.
Honaker, James, King, Gary, and Blackwell, Matthew. 2007. Amelia II: A Program for Missing Data. Cambridge: Harvard University.
Jacobson, Gary. 1989. “Strategic Politicians and the Dynamics of U.S. House Elections, 1946–86.” American Political Science Review 83 (3): 773–93.
Jacobson, Gary. 2004. The Politics of Congressional Elections. New York: Pearson Longman.
Jacobson, Gary, and Kernell, Samuel. 1983. Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Jenkins, Shannon. 2007. “A Woman's Work Is Never Done? Fundraising Perception and Effort Among Female State Legislative Candidates.” Political Research Quarterly 60 (2): 230–39.
Kahn, Kim Fridkin. 1996. The Political Consequences of Being a Woman. New York: Columbia University Press.
Kaufmann, Karen M., and Petrocik, John R.. 1999. “The Changing Politics of American Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 43 (3): 864–87.
Key, V. O. Jr. 1952. Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups, 3rd edition. New York: Crowell.
King, Gary, and Zeng, Langche. 2001. “Explaining Rare Events in International Relations.” International Organization 55 (3): 693715.
Koch, Jeffrey W. 2000. “Do Citizens Apply Gender Stereotypes to Infer Candidates' Ideological Orientations?Journal of Politics 62 (2): 414–29.
Koger, Gregory, Masket, Seth, and Noel, Hans. 2009. “Partisan Webs: Information Exchange and Party Networks.” British Journal of Political Science 39 (3): 633–53.
Krasno, Jonathan S., and Green, Donald Philip. 1988. “Preempting Quality Challengers in House Elections.” Journal of Politics 50 (4): 920–36.
Lawless, Jennifer L. 2004. “Women, War, and Winning Elections: Gender Stereotyping in the Post-September 11th Era.” Political Research Quarterly 57 (3): 479–90.
Lawless, Jennifer L., and Fox, Richard. 2005. It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lawless, Jennifer L., and Fox, Richard. 2010. It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lawless, Jennifer L., and Pearson, Kathryn. 2008. “The Primary Reason for Women's Under-Representation? Re-Evaluating the Conventional Wisdom.” Journal of Politics 70 (1): 6782.
Maisel, L. Sandy, and Stone, Walter J.. 1997. “Determinants of Candidate Emergence in U.S. House Elections: An Exploratory Study.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 22 (1): 7996.
Matland, Richard E., and King, David C.. 2002. “Women as Candidates in Congressional Elections.” In Women Transforming Congress, ed. Rosenthal, Cindy Simon. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 119–45.
McDermott, Monika L. 1997. “Voting Cues in Low-Information Elections: Candidate Gender as a Social Information Variable in Contemporary US Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 41: 270–83.
McDermott, Monika L.. 1998. “Race and Gender Cues in Low-Information Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 51 (4): 895918.
Niven, David. 1998. The Missing Majority: The Recruitment of Women as State Legislative Candidates. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Norrander, Barbara. 1999. “The Evolution of the Gender Gap.” Public Opinion Quarterly 63 (4): 566–76.
Palmer, Barbara, and Simon, Dennis. 2006. Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling: Women and Congressional Elections. New York: Routledge.
Pearson, Kathryn, and Dancey, Logan. 2011. “Elevating Women's Voice in Congress: Speech Participation in the House of Representatives.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (4): 910–23.
Rule, Wilma. 1981. “Why Women Don't Run: The Critical Contextual Factors in Women's Legislative Recruitment.” Western Political Quarterly 34 (1): 6077.
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2002. “Political Parties and the Recruitment of Women to State Legislatures.” Journal of Politics 64 (3): 791809.
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2006a. Where Women Run: Gender and Party in the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2006b. “Do Parties Know That ‘Women Win’? Party Leader Beliefs about Women's Electoral Chances.” Politics & Gender 2 (4): 431–50.
Seltzer, Richard A., Newman, Jody, and Leighton, Melissa Voorhees. 1997. Sex as a Political Variable: Women as Candidates and Voters in U.S. Elections. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Shafer, Byron E. 1983. Quiet Revolution: The Struggle for the Democratic Party and the Shaping of Post-Reform Politics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Smith, Eric R. A. N., and Fox, Richard L.. 2001. “A Research Note: The Electoral Fortunes of Women Candidates for Congress.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (1): 205–21.
Squire, Peverill. 1995. “Candidates, Money, and Voters: Assessing the State of Congressional Elections Research.” Political Research Quarterly 48 (4): 891917.
Stimson, James A. 1985. “Regression in Space and Time: A Statistical Essay.” American Journal of Political Science 29 (4): 914–47.
Stone, Walter J., and Maisel, L. Sandy. 2003. “The Not-So-Simple Calculus of Winning: Potential U.S. House Candidates' Nominations and General Election Prospects.” Journal of Politics 65 (4): 951–77.
Streb, Matthew J., Burrell, Barbara, Frederick, Brian, and Genovese, Michael A.. 2008. “Social Desirability Effects and Support for a Female American President.” Public Opinion Quarterly 72 (1): 7689.
Thomas, Sue, and Wilcox, Clyde, eds. 1998. Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Uslaner, Eric M., and Conway, M. Margaret. 1985. “The Responsible Electorate: Watergate, the Economy, and Vote Choice in 1974.” American Political Science Review 79 (3): 788803.
Volden, Craig, Wiseman, Alan E., and Wittmer, Dana E.. 2013. “When are Women More Effective Lawmakers Than Men?American Journal of Political Science 57 (2): 326–41.
Welch, Susan. 1978. “Recruitment of Women To Public Office.” Western Political Quarterly 31 (2): 372–80.
Wolbrecht, Christina. 2000. The Politics of Women's Rights: Parties, Positions, and Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


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