Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-ckh7h Total loading time: 0.415 Render date: 2022-07-04T22:51:34.156Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Gender Affinity Effects in Vote Choice in Westminster Systems: Assessing “Flexible” Voters in Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2011

Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant
Queen's University
Julie Croskill
University of Calgary


Under certain conditions, women are more likely than men to vote for women candidates, a phenomenon referred to as a “gender affinity effect.” Causal mechanisms connecting women voters to women candidates are gender consciousness, desire for descriptive representation, support for liberal social policy, the use of gender as a shortcut to vote choice among low-information voters, and a “party-sex overlap.” Existing work is focused on American elections, which tend to be candidate centered, so little is known about gender affinity effects between voters and candidates in other contexts. This article focuses on Westminster-style parliamentary systems, using the Canadian federal elections of 2000 and 2004 as test cases. Women in these systems have the same motivations to gravitate toward women candidates, for they are gender conscious and desire descriptive representation. But they do not have the same incentives to cast ballots for women because political institutions and practices tend to discourage candidate-based voting. The article pays particular attention to a segment of the electorate we call “flexible” voters, which is comprised of independents, leaners, and defectors. In Westminster systems, it is this group of voters who should be most sensitive to candidate-based considerations.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aldrich, John H. 1995. Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alexander, Deborah, and Andersen, Kristi. 1993. “Gender as a Factor in the Attribution of Leadership Traits.” Political Research Quarterly 46 (3): 527–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alvarez, R. Michael, and Nagler, Jonathan. 2000. “A New Approach for Modelling Strategic Voting in Multiparty Elections.” British Journal of Political Science 30 (1): 5775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banducci, Susan A., and Karp, Jeffrey A.. 2000. “Gender, Leadership and Choice in Multiparty Systems.” Political Research Quarterly 53 (4): 815–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bean, Clive. 1990. “The Personal Vote in Australian Federal Elections.” Political Studies 38 (2): 253–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blais, André. 2002. “Why Is There So Little Strategic Voting in Canadian Plurality Rule Elections?Political Studies 50 (3): 445–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blais, AndréGidengil, Elisabeth, Dobrzynska, Agnieszka, Nevitte, Neil, and Nadeau, Richard. 2003. “Does the Local Candidate Matter? Candidate Effects in the Canadian Election of 2000.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 36 (3): 657–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blidook, Kelly. 2010. “Exploring the Role of 'Legislators' in Canada: Do Members of Parliament Influence Policy?Journal of Legislative Studies 16 (1): 3256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Boef, Suzanna De, and Lin, Tse-Min. 2004. “The Dynamics of the Partisan Gender Gap.” American Political Science Review 98 (3): 515–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brians, Craig L. 2005. “Women for Women? Gender and Party Bias in Voting for Female Candidates.” American Politics Research 33 (3): 357–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burrell, Barbara. 1994. A Woman's Place Is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Cain, Bruce, Ferejohn, John, and Fiorina, Morris. 1987. The Personal Vote: Constituency Service and Electoral Independence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carroll, Susan J. 1988. “Women's Autonomy and the Gender Gap: 1980 and 1982.” In The Politics of the Gender Gap: The Social Construction of Political Influence., ed. Mueller, Carol M.. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 236–57.Google Scholar
Conover, Pamela Johnston, and Sapiro, Virginia. 1993. “Gender, Feminist Consciousness, and War.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (4): 1079–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cook, Elizabeth Adell. 1994. “Voter Responses to Women Candidates.” In The Year of the Woman: Myths and Realities, ed. Cook, E. A., Thomas, S., and Wilcox, C.. Boulder, CO: Westview, 217–36.Google Scholar
Cox, Gary W. 1997. Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cox, Gary, and McCubbins, Mathew. 1993. Legislative Leviathan. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Cunningham, Robert. 1971. “The Impact of the Local Candidate in Canadian Federal Elections.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 4 (2): 287–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cutler, Fred. 2002. “The Simplest Shortcut of All: Sociodemographic Characteristics and Electoral Choice.” Journal of Politics 64 (2): 466–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, Shannon N., and Greenstein, Theodore N.. 2009. “Gender Ideology: Components, Predictors, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Sociology 35: 87105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Docherty, David C. 1997. Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
Docherty, David C. 2003. “Can Canada Learn Some Lessons?” In Reforming Parliamentary Democracy, ed. Seidle, L F.. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 223–40.Google Scholar
Dolan, Kathleen A. 1998. “Voting for Women in the ‘Year of the Woman.’” American Journal of Political Science 42 (1): 272–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dolan, Kathleen A. 2001. “Electoral Context, Issues, and Voting for Women in the 1990s.” Women & Politics 23 (1/2): 2136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dolan, Kathleen A. 2004. Voting for Women: How the Public Evaluates Women Candidates. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
Dolan, Kathleen A. 2008. “Is There a ‘Gender Affinity Effect’ in American Politics? Information, Affect, and Candidate Sex in U.S. House Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 61 (1): 7989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dolan, Kathleen A. 2010. “The Impact of Gender Stereotyped Evaluations on Support for Women Candidates.” Political Behavior 32 (1): 6988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erie, Steven P., and Rein, Martin. 1988. “Women and the Welfare State.” In The Politics of the Gender Gap: The Social Construction of Political Influence, ed. Mueller, C. M.. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 173–91.Google Scholar
Fiorina, Morris. 1976. “The Voting Decision: Instrumental and Expressive Aspects.” Journal of Politics 38 (2): 390413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Franks, C. E. S. 1987. The Parliament of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fox, Richard L. 1997. Gender Dynamics in Congressional Elections. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gidengil, Elisabeth. 1995. “Economic Man—Social Woman? The Case of the Gender Gap in Support for the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.” Comparative Political Studies 28 (3): 384408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gidengil, Elisabeth, Blais, André, Everitt, Joanna, Fournier, Patrick, and Nevitte, Neil. 2006. “Back to the Future? Making Sense of the 2004 Canadian Election outside Quebec.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 39 (1): 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gidengil, Elisabeth, Blais, André, Nadeau, Richard, and Nevitte, Neil. 2003. “Women to the Left? Gender Differences in Political Beliefs and Policy Preferences.” In Gender and Electoral Representation in Canada, ed. Tremblay, M. and Trimble, L.. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 140–59.Google Scholar
Gidengil, Elisabeth, Hennigar, Matthew, Blais, André, and Nevitte, Neil. 2005Explaining the Gender Gap in Support for the New Right: The Case of Canada.” Comparative Political Studies 38 (10): 1171–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 1988. “Gender and Support for Reagan: A Comprehensive Model of Presidential Approval.” American Journal of Political Science 32 (1): 1949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Goodyear-Grant, Elizabeth. 2010. “Who Votes for Women Candidates and Why?” In Voting Behaviour in Canada, ed. Anderson, C. and Stephenson, L.. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 4364.Google Scholar
Greenstein, Theodore N. 2000. “Economic Dependence, Gender, and the Division of Labor in the Home: A Replication and Extension.” Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (2): 322–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Griffin, Christine. 1989. “‘I'm Not a Women's Libber But …’: Feminism, Consciousness and Identity.” In The Social Identity of Women, ed. Skevington, S. and Baker, D.. London: Sage, 173–93.Google Scholar
Gurin, Patricia. 1985. “Women's Gender Consciousness.” Public Opinion Quarterly 49 (2): 143–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herrnson, Paul S., Lay, J. Celeste, and Stokes, Atiya K.. 2003. “Women Running ‘as Women’: Candidate Gender, Campaign Issues, and Voter-Targeting Strategies.” Journal of Politics 65 (1): 244–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hillygus, D. Sunshine, and Shields, Todd G.. 2008. The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huddy, Leonie, and Terkildsen, Nayda. 1993. “Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (1): 119–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Iyengar, Shanto, and Petrocik, John R.. 2000. “‘Basic Rule’ Voting: Impact of Campaigns on Party- and Approval-Based Voting.” In Crowded Airwaves: Campaign Advertising in Elections, ed. Thurber, J. A.,Nelson, C. J., and Dulio, D. A.. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 113–48.Google Scholar
Kamen, Paula. 1991. Feminist Fatale. New York: Donald I. Fine.Google Scholar
King, David, and Matland, Richard. 2003. “Sex and the Grand Old Party: An Experimental Investigation of the Effect of Candidate Sex on Support for a Republican Candidate.” American Politics Research 31 (6): 595612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klatch, Rebecca. 1987. Women of the New Right. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Krashinsky, Michael, and Milne, William J.. 1986. “The Effect of Incumbency in the 1984 and 1985 Ontario Elections.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 19 (2): 337–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krashinsky, Michael, and Milne, William J.. 1991. “Some Evidence on the Effects of Incumbency in the 1988 Canadian Federal Election.” In Issues in Party and Election Finance in Canada, ed. Seidle, F. L.. Ottawa and Toronto: Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing and Dundurn Press.Google Scholar
Lau, Richard, and Redlawsk, David P.. 2001. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Cognitive Heuristics in Political Decision Making.” American Journal of Political Science 45 (4): 951–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lawless, Jennifer. 2004. “Women, War, and Winning Elections: Gender Stereotyping in the Post-September 11th Era.” Political Research Quarterly 57 (3): 479–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayhew, David R. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2001. “The Hunt for Party Discipline in Congress.” American Political Science Review 95 (3): 673687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCue, Clifford P., and Gopoian, J. David. 2000. “Dispositional Empathy and the Political Gender Gap.” Women and Politics 21 (2): 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDermott, Monika L. 1997. “Voting Cues in Low-Information Elections: Candidate Gender as a Social Information Variable in Contemporary United States Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 41 (1): 270–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norris, Pippa, Vallance, Elizabeth, and Lovenduski, Joni. 1992. “Do Candidates Make a Difference? Gender, Race, Ideology and Incumbency.” Parliamentary Affairs 45 (4): 496517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norton, Phillip, and Wood, David M.. 1990. “Constituency Service by Members of Parliament: Does It Contribute to a Personal Vote?Parliamentary Affairs 43 (2): 196208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norton, Phillip, and Wood, David M.. 1993. Back from Westminster: British Members of Parliament and Their Constituents. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.Google Scholar
O'Neill, Brenda. 1998. “The Relevance of Leader Gender to Voting in the 1993 Canadian National Election.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 17 (2): 105–30.Google Scholar
O'Neill, Brenda. 2003. “On the Same Wavelength? Feminist Attitudes across Generations of Canadian Women.” In Women and Electoral Politics in Canada, ed. Tremblay, M.and Trimble, L.. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 177–91.Google Scholar
Paolino, Phillip. 1995. “Group-Salient Issues and Group Representation: Support for Women Candidates in the 1992 Senate Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (2): 294313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Popkin, Samuel L. 1991. The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Plutzer, Eric, and Zipp, John F.. 1996. “Identity Politics, Partisanship, and Voting for Women Candidates.” Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (1): 3057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2002. “Gender Stereotypes and Vote Choice.” American Journal of Political Science 46 (1): 2034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2003. “Gender-Related Political Knowledge and the Descriptive Representation of Women.” Political Behavior 25 (4): 367–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Savoie, Donald J. 1999. Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Schreiber, Ronnee. 2002. “Injecting a Woman's Voice: Conservative Women's Organizations, Gender Consciousness, and the Expression of Women's Policy Preferences.” Sex Roles 47 (7/8): 331–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Robert Y., and Mahajan, Harpreet. 1986. “Gender Differences in Policy Preferences: A Summary of Trends from the 1960s to the 1980s.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50 (1): 4261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Eric R. A. N., and Fox, Richard L.. 2001. “The Electoral Fortunes of Women Candidates for Congress.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (1): 205–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Studlar, Donley T., and McAllister, lan. 1994. “The Electoral Connection in Australia: Candidate Roles, Campaign Activity, and the Popular Vote.” Political Behavior 16 (3): 385410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Studlar, Donley T., McAllister, Ian, and Hayes, Bernadette C.. 1998. “Explaining the Gender Gap in Voting: A Cross-National Analysis.” Social Science Quarterly 79 (4): 779–98.Google Scholar
Thompson, Seth, and Steckenrider, Janie. 1997. “The Relative Irrelevance of Candidate Sex.” Women and Politics 17 (4): 7192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tolleson-Rinehart, Sue. 1992. Gender Consciousness and Politics. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Welch, Susan, and Hibbing, John. 1992. “Financial Conditions, Gender, and Voting in American National Elections.” Journal of Politics 54 (1): 194213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaller, John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zipp, John F., and Plutzer, Eric. 1985. “Gender Differences in Voting for Female Candidates: Evidence from the 1982 Election.” Public Opinion Quarterly 49 (2): 179–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Gender Affinity Effects in Vote Choice in Westminster Systems: Assessing “Flexible” Voters in Canada
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Gender Affinity Effects in Vote Choice in Westminster Systems: Assessing “Flexible” Voters in Canada
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Gender Affinity Effects in Vote Choice in Westminster Systems: Assessing “Flexible” Voters in Canada
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *