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How to Elect More Women: Gender and Candidate Success in a Field Experiment

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Women are dramatically underrepresented in legislative bodies, and most scholars agree that the greatest limiting factor is the lack of female candidates (supply). However, voters’ subconscious biases (demand) may also play a role, particularly among conservatives. We designed an original field experiment to test whether messages from party leaders can affect women's electoral success. The experimental treatments involved messages from a state Republican Party chair to the leaders of 1,842 precinct‐level caucus meetings. We find that party leaders’ efforts to stoke both supply and demand (and especially both together) increase the number of women elected as delegates to the statewide nominating convention. We replicate this finding in a survey experiment with a national sample of validated Republican primary election voters (N = 2,897). Our results suggest that simple interventions from party leaders can affect the behavior of candidates and voters and ultimately lead to a substantial increase in women's descriptive representation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2017

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