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When All Parties Nominate Women: The Role of Political Gender Stereotypes in Voters’ Choices

  • Zoe Lefkofridi (a1), Nathalie Giger (a2) and Anne Maria Holli (a3)

Do political gender stereotypes exist in egalitarian settings in which all parties nominate women? Do they matter for candidate selection in systems of proportional representation with multiparty competition and preferential voting? To date, these questions remain unanswered because related research is limited to the U.S. case. Our pioneering study examines political stereotypes in one of the “least likely” cases, Finland—a global forerunner in gender equality. We find, first, that stereotypes persist even in egalitarian paradises. Second, when testing across settings of candidate choice, we find that the effect varies greatly: political gender stereotypes are powerful in hypothetical choices, but they work neither in favor of nor against female candidates when many “real,” viable, experienced, and incumbent female candidates are competing. Although in open-list systems with preferential voting, gender stereotypes can directly affect female candidates’ electoral success, in Finland, their actual impact in real legislative elections appears marginal.

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We are grateful to Marta Fraile, Yvonne Galligan, Leonie Huddy, and Mikko Mattila, as well as the late Richard Matland, for constructive comments on earlier versions of this article. We also appreciate input by the participants in the workshop on “Gender, Political Behaviour and Representation in ‘Preferential’ Electoral Systems” at the ECPR Joint Sessions, University of Mainz, and in the “Colloquium on Political Behaviour” at the European University Institute, Florence. We are indebted to Hanna Wass for her invaluable contribution to the generation of the data analyzed in this article. We thank Åsa von Schoultz for providing us additional information on Finnish parties’ lists based on her database “The Intraparty Dimension of Politics: Candidates Nominated in Finnish Parliamentary Elections 1995–2015.” Last but not least, we thank Statistics Finland for permission to use Gender Barometer data and the Academy of Finland of supporting this research (project no. 130478).

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