Does Candidate Gender Matter?

Amy King and I have a new paper out today, looking at how candidates’ gender affects their share of the vote. Here’s our abstract:

Bias at the Ballot Box? Testing Whether Candidates’ Gender Affects Their Vote
We examine the relationship between a candidate’s gender and their electoral success, using data from all Federal elections to the Australian House of Representatives between 1903 and 2004. Controlling for party affiliation, incumbency, expected vote share and the number of candidates on the ballot, we find that the vote share of female candidates is 0.6 percentage points smaller than that of male candidates (for major parties, the gap widens to 1½ percentage points). In theory, differences in the electoral performance of male and female candidates could be explained by the preselection system. But using various strategies, we find little evidence that the preselection system is responsible for much of the gender voting gap. Over time, the gap between male and female candidates has shrunk considerably. This is most likely due to changes in social norms (as proxied by the gender pay gap) and the share of female candidates running nationwide. Across electorates, we find that female candidates are harmed, not helped, by having more women on the ballot. In addition, female candidates do not appear to benefit from running in electorates where a higher share of voters are female.

The gender gap in the 2004 election was still in the order of 0.6 percentage points, or around 600 voters in a 100,000 voter federal electorate.

This is the third paper in a series that Amy and I are writing together. The first two were on the impact of ballot order and beauty on election outcomes. I’m pleased the collaboration has survived Amy’s move to Oxford, and hopeful that we can write a couple more before she becomes part of the dataset, as I expect will happen before long.

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3 Responses to Does Candidate Gender Matter?

  1. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Is this the headline you wanted?

    Female candidates a liability, says study

  2. ChrisPer says:

    That seems like a fair degree of success to me; measurably close to male performance, and easily overcome by better organisation and network effectiveness.

  3. Andrew Leigh says:

    Sinc, it’s not my preferred headline, but neither is it inaccurate (at least if you’re talking in the narrow electoral sense).

    Chris, I agree that you can see this as glass half-full. Female candidates are by no means unelectable, but our results suggest that in a tight race, gender can matter.

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