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UCD Political Science Alumni Sarah Fulton featured in Political Behavior

Sarah Fulton (UCD Ph.D. 2006, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University) was recently featured in Political Behavior.

The Gendered Politics of Congressional Elections

Are female candidates less likely than male candidates to attract votes or win elections? We conduct a large-n longitudinal analysis employing survey and observational data from every two-party congressional race over a 12-year period (2006–2018) and connect individual-level theory and evidence with aggregate-level results. We demonstrate that candidate gender significantly influences congressional vote-choice and election outcomes. Holding other variables constant, we show that male Republican and male independent voters are significantly less likely to vote for female Democratic candidates, but do not assess a similar penalty on female Republican candidates. Perceived ideological distance does not explain the lack of support for female Democrats—however, variation in candidate quality does: Female Democratic candidates can attract the support of male Republican and male independent voters when they have a qualifications advantage, but are penalized when they are merely “as qualified.” At the aggregate-level, female Democratic candidates with a qualifications advantage are as likely as males to win elections; but are significantly less likely than males to win when qualifications are held constant. The proportion of male Republicans and male independents in a district determines the extent of the penalty, with women’s electoral prospects declining as this proportion increases. Women can win, but they need to be highly qualified and strategic about the races in which they emerge. These findings contribute to our understanding of the micro- and macro-level factors that shape women’s electoral fortunes; and advance the goal of representational equality by helping candidates and campaigns concentrate their efforts on the most winnable voters and districts.