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Bargain Shopping: How Candidate Sex Lowers the Cost of Voting

  • Heather L. Ondercin (a1) and Sarah A. Fulton (a2)


Previous research shows that candidate sex serves as a heuristic that lessens the informational burden of political decision making. Building upon this research, we investigate the heuristic effects of candidate sex on the decision to turnout to vote in an election. We posit that by providing ideological and nonideological information about the candidates, candidate sex serves as an informational shortcut that reduces the costs associated with voting and enhances the likelihood of voting in elections when a female candidate is present. Our expectations are supported, even after controlling for a variety of individual-, candidate- and district-level characteristics that are correlated with turnout. Individuals are more likely to turnout in elections featuring a woman candidate, and consistent with our expectations, these effects are especially strong for female Democrats, whose sex and party heuristics convey a consistent “liberal” cue. Our research offers theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature on gender, candidate heuristics, and voter turnout.

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