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The Role of Gender Stereotypes in U.S. Senate Campaigns

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2009

Kim L. Fridkin
Arizona State University
Patrick J. Kenney
Arizona State University


In this article, we rely on data from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to examine the impact of gender for U.S. senators running for reelection. We propose a theoretical explanation for why an incumbent's gender may influence how citizens evaluate senators, and we present empirical evidence showing that people develop distinct impressions of men and women senators during campaigns. In the 2006 election cycle, women senators were viewed more positively than their male counterparts. Some of the advantages women senators enjoyed were consistent with established gender stereotypes. In particular, women senators were viewed as more honest and more caring than male senators. Moreover, women senators were viewed as more competent at dealing with health-care issues. However, we did not find evidence for gender stereotypes that traditionally produce more positive views of male senators. For example, we did not find that male senators were viewed as stronger leaders or more experienced than women senators. People did not view male senators as better able to deal with economic issues.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2009

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