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Measuring Stereotypes of Female Politicians

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One explanation for the dearth of women in elected office is that voters stereotype candidates based on their gender. Research in this vein often assumes that female candidates will be stereotyped similarly to women (e.g., as compassionate) and measures stereotypes as such. We question this assumption, proposing instead that female politicians constitute a subtype—a new stereotypical category with its own qualities—of the broader group of women. We compare the content of female politician stereotypes to other relevant comparison groups including politicians, male politicians, and female professionals. Using a classic methodology to determine stereotype content (Katz & Braly, 1933), we find that female politicians do not share the qualities that are ascribed to women (e.g., warm, empathetic). Our results show that female politicians seem to be “losing” on male stereotypical qualities while also not having any advantage on qualities typical of women. The content of female politician stereotypes is nebulous and lacks clarity in comparison to all other groups examined. We discuss implications for the future measurement of politician stereotypes.
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Keywords: female politician; gender stereotypes; measurement; stereotype content; subgroup; subtype

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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