Politics as a Man’s Game? Women’s Representation, Gender Stereotypes, and Cognitive Engagement in Politics
Pereira, Frederico Batista
This dissertation examines how stereotypes about men and women in politics affect political outcomes such as the composition of legislatures and citizens’ cognitive engagement in politics, across different contexts. The dissertation is divided in three research papers examining the effect of individuals’ beliefs and attitudes about gender and politics on public opinion and voting behavior. The three chapters rely on different types of data, methods, and look at different countries in order to approach questions related to political preferences, cognitive engagement, and voting behavior. The first chapter argues that gender attitudes stem from more fundamental beliefs about gender relations in society, namely hostile and benevolent sexism. Based on original survey data from Brazil, the chapter uses confirmatory factor analyses in order to show that specific beliefs and attitudes about men and women in politics and society stem from those two fundamental types of orientations about gender relations. Using cross-national survey data and a survey experiment with American respondents, the second chapter argues that gendered political contexts, through both the underrepresentation of women in political institutions and cues provided by surveys’ questions, affect respondents’ performance in questions of political knowledge. The third and last empirical chapter proposes and tests a theory that accounts for how electoral rules moderate the effect of gender stereotypes on voting behavior. The main hypothesis of the chapter is that voters will be less likely to vote for female candidates when they can substitute ideologically close female candidates with similar male co-partisans. The chapter uses electoral survey data and a ballot experiment with Brazilian subjects to show how those behavioral patterns harm the electoral prospects of female candidates. The overall conclusion of the findings from the three chapters is that in order to understand public opinion and elections in a world where women increasingly occupy positions of power one must theorize and investigate what people think about gender and how that affects the choices they make.