Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Voter Discrimination

Voter Discrimination
America is one of the greatest countries in the world. We are a land of equal opportunity. If this is the case, then why in our government, the institution that should reflect these values, is equal opportunity not exemplified? There is a gender gap between men and women in politics and this gap is often overlooked. Because many people simply sweep these issues under the rug, our society has built stereotypes of women and men and their roles in politics, especially in conservative circles. These political stereotypes deter women from running for office and keep them from finding success when they do choose to run for office. These stereotypes also influence voters to vote for a man simply because he is a man. This is more prevalent in conservative circles and among more conservative voters. Because there are deterrents for women who want to run for office in conservative parties, like the Republican party, there are many more women elected in the Democratic party. A quote from the New York Times exploits this trend the best, “Although women in both parties have increased their numbers in Congress during the past 25 years, the share of Democratic women — now nearly 33 percent — has continued to climb, while the Republican female share has leveled off since hitting 10 percent during the mid-2000s.” This trend has pointed our attention to an important issue. Why are conservative voters not electing more women? In this article I seek to understand and explain the answer to that question.
Existing Research and Ideas
This emerging trend, as stated by the New York Times, has lead me to research this area to figure out if conservative voters discriminate against women or prefer male candidates over women. I am not the first person to try to explain women’s lack of a fair representation in political office because of voter discrimination. In fact, the literature on the topic of women in politics has been thoroughly researched but most existing research claims that the main reason women are descriptively underrepresented in congress is because less women run for office than men. Because of this, the issue of voter discrimination has not been as thoroughly explored as it should be (Burrell).
These studies do not hold consistent across research and literature on this topic. A study found that among certain groups of people, cultures, and regions, there seemed to be discrimination against women among voters. For example, in Wyoming they found that voters were much more likely to prefer male candidates over women. Wyoming is one of the most conservative states in the United States. This reinforces my theory that conservative voters discriminate more than liberal voters against women (Fox).
After reading the existing research on this topic I formed a hypothesis to explain what I thought was causing voter discrimination. I suspect that the more conservative a voter is, the less likely they are to vote for a women running for political office when there is a male option on the ballot. I believe that conservative voters hold more traditional views on proper gender roles in society and therefore are more likely to discriminate against women candidates unlike liberal voters. The age of the voters also plays an important role because the older the voter is, the more likely they are to have old fashion views of gender, women, and politics. After developing this theory, I decided to test it out among voters in a specific conservative circle.
I used a Qualtrics survey on Facebook to sample my BYU friends as well as my LDS associates in order to get a better mix of survey respondents. For non LDS groups and liberal voters, the same method was applied. They were reached through several networks over social media.
In this survey I provided a vignette of two political candidates. Little information was provided between a male and female candidate who are of similar professional and educational backgrounds to see which candidate was likely to be supported by voters. This helped me test whether or not voters would discriminate against a candidate based on their conservative’s views and the sex of the candidate.
Results and Discussion
The results from the data were nothing less than surprising in many ways. Virtually my whole theory appeared to be wrong from the data I collected. I hypothesized that the more conservative a voter was, the less likely they are to support a female over a male. The results showed that whether a Republican voter saw themselves as liberal or conservative; they were equally likely to slightly favor the male candidate. Which went against my theory that liberal voters would be more likely to support the woman. Members of other political parties were just as likely to slightly favor the man over the woman for office.
I thought that LDS voters would tend to hold more traditional views of gendered stereotypes of men and women because of their views on the traditional family structure. If this were true, there would be a stronger preference among LDS voters to vote for the male candidate. My data showed that the members of LDS faith only slightly preferred the male candidate to the female candidate. Research indicated that LDS voters should strongly pull toward the male candidates, but this turned out to be only slightly true, much less than expected.
I expected that older voters would hold to more traditional views of politics and gender stereotypes than younger voters. This was the most accurate of my predictions. The group most likely to heavily favor the male candidate was the age group of 45+.
From this it can be concluded that more important than ideologies, parties, and religion, was attitude. The older generation has an attitude of traditional gender roles in society and especially politics that is unlikely to change. Younger voters are more willing to change their attitude and support evolving roles of women in our political system. More young people willing to create change are needed in election cycles.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

American mayors: where are the women?

While women’s representation in government has increased since Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) became the first woman elected to serve in Congress in 1916, women are still drastically underrepresented in American politics. In fact, there is a plethora of nonprofits and political action committees whose main goal is to get more women into office. Much research has been done on this issue, so before getting into the specific problem of US mayors, here are 3 important things that research has to teach us about women’s underrepresentation in American government today:

Infographic taken from WomanStats
1. Women are underrepresented at all levels of government.
We all know that the U.S. has never had a female president (though perhaps that will change in 2016). Other statistics surrounding women’s underrepresentation in US politics are less well known. Women make under 20% of Congress as it stands today. Across the nation, only 24.5% of state legislators are women. In America’s entire history, only 37 women have been state governors. Finally, only 18.4% of mayors in American cities with populations over 30,000 are women. Scholars debate many possible reasons why women are underrepresented in government, and one of these is that…

2. Women candidates face gender barriers.
Women who run for office win at the same rates as men, but women don’t often run. When do women choose to run for any office, they face gender stereotypes and perception issues. Some research suggests that negative stereotypes (see anecdotal evidence of such stereotypes here here and here) results in a baseline voting preference for men. These consequences may be especially acute for women seeking executive offices, because stereotypically male characteristics are seen as necessary for higher office. So, stereotypes about women’s leadership abilities may lead to a preference for male characteristics at a higher office. Yet despite the fact that underrepresentation exists at all levels of government and women may face greater challenges in seeking executive office…

3. Most of the research into underrepresentation focuses on federal legislative offices.
The majority of current research into women’s candidacies, the consequences of negative gender stereotypes, and other important factors that may affect women’s underrepresentation, focuses on the Senate and House of Representatives while less attention is paid to state legislatures and city councils. Furthermore, little research investigates executive positions, such as presidential, gubernatorial, or mayoral seats, though these are important venues for women’s representative equality. So, research on women’s underrepresentation falls short due to lack of scholarship at the intersection of executive offices and local elections.

I chose to try to fill this gap by examining California mayoral elections to determine whether women mayoral candidates were winning more often in small or large cities.

There were a variety of reasons why I suspected that there might be a difference between small and large cities in their rates of women mayors. Small cities might have less formal, and thus inherently more biased recruiting practices. Large cities might give candidates less opportunities to speak with voters face-to-face, which limits the way women candidates can cut through gendered media coverage. Additionally, larger cities tend to lean liberal and women win more often in liberal districts. The list of possible reasons for a discrepancy can go on and on, so let’s get into the results.

Using a dataset that detailed mayoral races in 161 California cities, roughly ranging in population from 3,000 to 3 million, I tested to see whether population affected the likelihood of a woman candidate winning. My data enabled me to control for the culture, history, and partisanship of different cities, and also allowed me to look at the effect of incumbency on a candidate’s chance of success.

My analysis found that incumbents do better than non-incumbents across the board, which isn't surprising. More interestingly, I found that a woman’s chances of winning increases as city size increases. This is true for incumbent and non-incumbent women. The opposite is true for both incumbent and non-incumbent men; as city size increases, men’s chances of election decreases.

In short, it’s better to be a female candidate than a male candidate in large cities.

This conclusion has a clear implication: women should run in bigger cities. How exciting! Women, head to the urban jungle! But wait, wait, before we can get too excited, this research needs to be replicated. Data from states other than California should be examined to see if the trend for women doing better and men doing worse in large cities worse holds true. Additionally, further research is needed to determine what is actually causing this trend. Is it just that both women and large cities tend to lean liberal, so they are a match made in heaven? Or are women somehow being penalized in small cities? What challenges are men facing in large cities? Finding the answers to these questions will require additional research.