Does Having a Political Role Model Influence
the Political Activity of Young Mongolians?
by Purevsuren Sukhbaatar
Mongolia became a democratic nation after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. This political change brought more advancement for women in education, workforce, and politics. Since then Mongolian women have become more active in politics and have an opportunity to pursue a public career, but the progress is still slow (e.g. only nine women out of 76 members were selected as MPs in the 2012 election). The current female MPs are well educated and experienced politicians in Mongolia, and they seem to be good role models to young Mongolian future leaders. There is a great hope for women in Mongolia to have equal representation in the highest level of government.
The research question is to study the effect of a political role model on the political activity of young Mongolians. More specifically, I expect to see if a female political role model has a positive influence on the political attitude among girls and young women who will then actively participate in political arena.
The inclusion of more women in positions of political power will change the nature of political representation in Mongolia. Lawless and Fox (2010) support this idea and argue that “Electing more women would substantially reduce the possibility that politicians overlook gender-salient issues” (p. 8). Increasing the number of female politicians in Mongolia is important in the 21st century because women will advocate issues that affect women. Historically, more men than women participated in the Mongolian politics because women took care of the matters at home while men were heavily involved in politics. Yet, more women are interested in making contributions in the development of Mongolia by engaging in politics.
Data and Method
I examine the impact of female and male political role models on the political activity of women and men in Mongolia by employing a survey experiment: the Development of Mongolia and Civic Engagement Survey (DMCES), conducted in March 2013. The survey was prepared on a survey design tool, Qualtrics, and distributed through dozens of various groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, the largest worldwide social and professional networks.
The survey is randomly assigned into three different treatment groups. Treatment 1 is the control group in which I will use to examine the Treatment 2 and Treatment 3. Treatment 2 includes a biography of a woman and Treatment 3 covers a biography of a man, but Treatment 1 has no biography of a person. The biography is fictitious and introduces prospective female and male political role models who are educated, qualified, and passionate about politics while interested in running for office in the 2016 election in Mongolia. To receive unbiased responses on each question in Treatment 2 and Treatment 3, the content of the fictitious biography is the same except for their names. The name helps the respondents to know that they read about a woman or a man. The data analysis on each treatment group will be discussed in great details in the Results section.
I am interested in the effect of the female political role model on the political activity for girls and young women. To measure their political activity, five dependent variables are included in the survey. These variables are: (1) voting in an election, (2) participating in a political party or event, (3) helping in the campaign process, (4) running for political office, and (5) working in the government. The DMCES contains a measure of political activities, in which respondents are asked to indicate their level of interest in their political activities: not interested, somewhat interested, interested, and very interested.
For each dependent variable, I am interested in determining whether reading the biography of a woman influences girls’ and/or women’s political activity. However, it is important to study both genders, female and male. Moreover, it is useful to ask some respondents to read a biography of a woman; others read a biography of a man or no biography. The treatments are not told to each respondent because I want to see which independent variables have positive effects on the dependent variables. The main independent variables are treatment 1, treatment 2, and treatment 3. Also, I examine that the interaction terms (female gender * treatment 2 and female gender * treatment 3) are important to control.
At the individual level, I control for a number of variables that have a plausible connection to political participation and might differ by sex. These include employment status (employed=1), education level, and whether the respondent is either married or single. I also control for age, party membership, and gender (female=1). Model 1 is created to examine the independent variables on the main dependent variable, run for office.
Run for Office = β1 + β2 (Female) + β3 (Age) + β4 (Employed) +
β5 (Party_member) + β6 (Married) + β7 (Secondary_education) +
β8 (Bachelors) + β9 (Masters) + β10 (Treatment2) + β11 (Treatment3) +
β12 (Treatment2*Female) + β13 (Treatment3*Female)
It was expected that being female and reading the biography of a political female role model would have a positive effect on a female’s interest in running for office. Estimating Model 1 shows that independent variables, such as Age, Employed, Party_member, Female, have an effect on the dependent variable. Specifically, the female effect is decreasing the probability of “very interested” by 6%. The t-statistic for this effect is -1.84 and the P-value is 0.066, which mean the coefficient is significant. On the other hand, the Treatment2*Female effect is shown that the probability of “very interested” is 2%, but the t-statistic for this effect is 0.48 and P-value is 0.633, which means that being female and receiving treatment 2 (reading the biography of a woman) does not affect the interest level in running for office. Likewise, being female and receiving treatment 3 (reading the biography of a man) also does not affect the interest level in running for office. The expectation did not hold in the experiment.
Although my expectation does not hold, I still believe that having female political role model may encourage women to participate in politics. In regards to other role models, over 62% of the respondents stated that they do not have anyone who encourages them to participate in politics. This suggests that Mongolian young people are not used to having role models in their personal lives. Thus, it is my recommendation that encouraging current and former female politicians to be an example to girls and young women may have more impact on their political activity.
Lawless, Jennifer L., R. Fox. 2010. “It Still Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for
Office.” Cambridge University Press, p. 1-169.