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Race and Gender Cues in Low-Information Elections

Monika L. McDermott
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 51, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 895-918
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/449110
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449110
Page Count: 24
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Race and Gender Cues in Low-Information Elections
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Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that in low-information elections voters compensate for a lack of information by taking informational shortcuts, based on candidate cues, to make voting decisions. To date, this research has focused on candidate party identification and incumbency cues. This article argues that candidate demographic cues, specifically race and gender, also play an influential role. Unlike past psychological research that focuses on potential voter bias against women or black candidates, this article examines the informational content of voters' stereotypes about women and black candidates, and how these stereotypes affect voting behavior. I use quasi-experimental data from the Los Angeles Times Poll to demonstrate that candidate gender and candidate race signal voters in two different ways. Voters stereotype candidates ideologically: women and black candidates are stereotyped as more liberal than the average white male. Voters also stereotype candidates on issues: black candidates are seen as more concerned with minority rights than whites; while women candidates are viewed as more dedicated to honest government. As a result, voters choose candidates for office based on how much they agree or disagree with the ideological and issue positions they attribute, through stereotyping, to candidates.

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