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A Feminine Advantage? Delineating the Effects of Feminine Trait and Feminine Issue Messages on Evaluations of Female Candidates

  • Nichole M. Bauer (a1)

Abstract

Current scholarship offers conflicting conclusions about whether female candidates have a feminine advantage or a disadvantage. Previous work does not consider whether voters respond similarly to all types of messages that might emphasize feminine stereotypes, such as feminine trait and feminine issue messages. I argue that voters will respond differently to trait-based feminine messages relative to issue-based feminine messages. I test the effects of trait-based and issue-based feminine messages through two survey experiments. The results consistently show that emphasizing feminine traits harms female candidates, whereas emphasizing feminine issues helps female candidates. I use role congruity theory to argue that feminine traits activate feminine stereotypes about women, and feminine issues do not activate these stereotypes. I also show that trait-based and issue-based feminine messages affect Democratic and Republican female candidates in very different ways. These results have implications for the ability of women to win elected office and reverse the pervasive underrepresentation of women in politics.

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