Running as a Woman (or Man): A Review of Research on Political Communicators and Gender Stereotypes

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Kelly L Winfrey
James M Schnoebelen


Women gained the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, but it was not until 1980 that political scholars and practitioners began paying much attention to the role of women in elections and it was the so-called “Year of the Woman” in 1992 that sparked increased scholarly attention on women as political communicators. A record number of women, 117, ran for the U.S. Congress in 1992, but the number of women running and serving has been slow to increases since that time. One reason may be the unique challenges gender poses for female political communicators. Over three decades of research has proven gender stereotypes and expectations play a key role in how women (and men) communicate with voters. This review of research summarizes major findings and changes in gender and political communication research over the past three decades. Our focus is on communication by candidates and how gender shapes that communication. In all, 119 scholarly sources were reviewed; these sources included scholarly journals from related disciplines as well as books. Gender stereotypes in political communication have also been studied using a variety of methodologies, and to reflect that the research reviewed in this essay include both quantitative and qualitative methods. This summary of existing research includes a discussion of the gender stereotypes faced by candidates and how candidates present themselves to the public in light of these stereotypes.

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