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Working Paper Series

How Does Gender Stereotyping Affect Women at the Ballot Box? Evidence from Local Elections in California, 1995-2016


  • Sarah F. Anzia, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Rachel Bernhard, University of Oxford


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2019)


Research shows that voters often use gender stereotypes to evaluate candidates, but less work studies whether stereotyping affects women’s chances of winning elections, and the work that exists reaches divergent conclusions. We develop hypotheses about how the effects of gender stereotyping vary by context, which we test using data on thousands of local elections. We find that gender stereotyping hurts women more in executive races than legislative races, helps women more when the salient issue is education, and hurts women more in conservative constituencies. Consistent with our argument that this reflects stereotyping, these effects are largest in on-cycle elections, in which the average voter has less information about local candidates. By opening up the possibility of varying effects, and by analyzing data on how people voted in real elections rather than attitudes about hypothetical candidates, we advance our understanding of how voter stereotyping affects the success of women running for office.

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Last updated on 02/05/2019