The perks of being female: crises, gender, and voting

Zucco Júnior, César
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Do crises affect voters’ attitudes towards candidates differently depending on their gender? Literature shows that people in general hold gendered stereotypes about the attributes of politicians that make women be perceived as unfit for office. This thesis investigates whether crises may change what voters look for in political leaders, making attributes stereotypically associated with women become more valuable in certain contexts. I hypothesize that the effects vary accordingly to the type of crisis. Corruption scandals are expected to favor women and candidates with female stereotypes, often related to communal and moral qualities, while economic downturns would strengthen voters’ bias for traditional male politicians. I conduct two different survey experiments. The first seeks to identify the contents of gendered stereotypes of politicians in Brazil, and the second aims to estimate the impact of different types of crises on candidates’ perceived suitability for office and vote intention. My findings suggest that voters hold positive stereotypes of female politicians and a pro-female bias in all contexts, that is reinforced by both types of crises analyzed. Although corruption related scandals negatively affect the overall evaluation of politicians, this general effect spares stereotypical women while strongly punishes men with traditional politicians’ stereotypes. As for the scenario of economic recession, results suggest that it benefits the voting prospects of women over men, with voters notably punishing counter stereotypical male candidates.

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