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Working Paper Series

Does Gender Stereotyping Affect Women at the Ballot Box? Evidence from Local Elections in California, 1995-2013


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


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (August 2017)


Research demonstrates that many voters use gender stereotypes to evaluate candidates, but does that stereotyping affect women’s electoral success? In this paper, we try to make headway in answering that question by combining a novel empirical strategy with local election data from California. Our empirical strategy relies on two key findings from the existing literature: first, that individuals are more likely to rely on stereotypes when they have less information about the candidates, and second, that the average voter in elections held concurrently with national elections has less information about local candidates than the average voter in off-cycle elections. We propose that we can therefore estimate the electoral effect of increased gender stereotyping by examining the difference in women’s win rates in higher-information (off-cycle) and lower-information (on-cycle) elections—and how that difference varies by constituency and the office sought. Our preliminary results show that the effect of increased stereotyping is more negative for female candidates in mayoral races than in city council races, and also that the effect of greater stereotyping is more negative for women running in conservative cities than in more liberal cities. Thus, we conclude that there probably isn’t a single, one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how gender stereotyping affects female candidates, but rather that the direction and magnitude of the effect varies across contexts.

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Last updated on 08/25/2017