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Women in Politics: Public's Preference in Elections

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The issue of women in politics can be traced back to the 19th century when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony took a stance as women’s rights activist and fought for women’s right to vote. As a result of Anthony and Stanton’s persistence and determination, on August 18th, 1920 the United States passed a law granting and guaranteeing all American women the right to vote no matter the race, culture, or ethnicity. Since earning that fundamental right the American woman has continued to create milestones in the world of politics. These milestones include Jeannette Rankin being the first woman elected to congress in 1916. Margaret Chase Smith being the first woman to serve in the House and Senate in 1940. Condoleezza Rice being the first black woman to serve as the secretary of state from 2005-2009 and—In present day—Nikki Haley being the first Indian American woman to serve as the United States ambassador to the United nations. Though these accomplishments of the American woman are inspiring, one issue still remains as it relates to women in politics; Gender and Race discrimination against women in political elections. As a result, women that the run for political positions are constantly harassed and discriminated against making the likelihood of them winning office slim to none.

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Research on gender stereotypes concludes that voters judge candidates based of sex. This judgment includes assuming that the candidate’s viewpoints, ideas, and character traits will differ because they are either male or female. A study conducted by researchers Leonie Huddy and Nayda Terkildsen of State University at New York at Stony Brook found that there are two types of gender stereotypes voters use to judge candidates; Beliefs and Trait. The Belief stereotype focuses on the principles and the policy inclinations that typical suit men and women. The trait stereotype focuses on the assumed personal characteristics of men and women. As it pertains to the voter belief stereotypes, women are considered copious and substantial (Koch 2000; McDermorr 1998). Moreover researchers have found that voters view female candidates to be credible to address issues such as: poverty, education, and health. In contrast, male candidates are viewed as stern, stable and straightforward. Voters feel male candidates are suitable to address issues such as economics, crime, and military. In terms of Trait Stereotypes, voters view as sympathetic and easily negotionable. In contrast, men are seen as firm and self-assured. (burrell 1994; Huddy &T; Leeper 1991; Rosenwasser and dean 1989).

The voter presumptions about candidates during the election process based upon gender result in many negative electoral costs for women. To begin, gender stereotypes tend to side with men. This has been seen in United States history on many accounts including the United States 2016 presidential campaign where Hilary Clinton, wife of the 42nd president of the United States, won the popular vote; however, Political scientist have found that due to her being a woman she lost the electoral vote to President Donald Trump. (SITE). Furthermore, research has found that voters are inclined to select masculine candidates because of the traits they possess that female candidates are assumed to lack. A study conducted by Shirley Rosenwasser and Norma Dean found that the male traits are viewed as more valuable than female traits the federal, state, local levels ( Huddy and Terkildsen 1993). Next, gender stereotyping also affects the election environment. Huddy and Terkildsen found in their research that female candidates campaign and thrive more in open atmosphere’s where women issues can be discussed freely (Burrell 1994; Fox 1997). Men, however, are viewed as suitable for higher positions of power over women no matter the atmosphere. Rosenwasser and Dean ). As a result, male candidates are preferred for national and executive offices and female candidates have a greater chance at winning local and legislative positions. (Adams 1975; Dolan 1997). This research reveals that during political elections gender stereotyping is prevalent, and occurs to American women detriment more than to their benefit.

One aspect of political elections that many researchers neglect is the candidate selection process. David Niven (1998) conducted a survey among party chairs in a county. The study found that they favored that characteristics found in men (assertive, stern, vocal). Another study by Irene Diamond (1997) found that female candidates are not likely to selected to run for high-status positions. It is also interesting to note that in the instances where women have been selected to run for prestigious political positions is because they have a chance of winning based off electoral environment. Gender Stereotyping also plays a role in female candidate’s choice to run for office. During political elections, women have been found to have less drive than male candidates (Bledsoe and Herring 1990; Carroll 1994; Fox, Lawless, and Feely 2001). Researcher Kahn 1996 found that because of discrimination against women against in politics, female candidates tend to highlight their diplomas and credentials. The constant deterioration of the capability of a woman in politics motivates women to run for offices that are viewed to be suitable for a woman.        

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