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Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates

Leonie Huddy and Nayda Terkildsen
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Feb., 1993), pp. 119-147
DOI: 10.2307/2111526
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111526
Page Count: 29
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Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates
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Abstract

We investigate the origins of voters' expectations of greater female competency on "compassion" issues, such as dealing with poverty or the aged, and greater male competency on military and defense issues. We contrast two alternative explanations: gender-trait stereotypes, emphasizing a candidate's gender-linked personality traits; and gender-belief stereotypes, placing greatest importance on the differing political outlooks of male and female candidates. We test contrasting predictions from these two approaches with data from an experiment in which 297 undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to hear about a male or a female candidate with typically masculine or feminine traits. Overall, there was stronger support for the trait approach. Warm and expressive candidates were seen as better at compassion issues; instrumental candidates were rated as more competent to handle the military and economic issues. Moreover, masculine instrumental traits increased the candidate's perceived competence on a broader range of issues than the feminine traits of warmth and expressiveness. Finally, there was some limited support for the belief approach with gender-based expectations about the candidates' political views affecting their rated competency on compassion but not other types of political issues.

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