Whither the Republican women legislators?

I was talking with my Politics of Parenthood partner in crime, Laurel Elder, the other day about her other research on women in state legislatures.  I think this chart that sums up the issue is pretty amazing.

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As for Laurel’s explanation, here’s from her abstract:

 From 1981 to 2014, the percent of Republican women legislators increased by only 3 percentage points nationally and actually went down in one fifth of states. Moreover, the gains of Republican women have come disproportionately in liberal states that are trending Democratic, while they have faced their biggest obstacles in conservative states dominated by Republicans. In contrast, women’s presence in the workforce appears to facilitate a steady increase in the representation of Democratic women. Democratic women have made impressive gains in all regions of the country, including the South, and in both conservative and liberal states.

The conversation was occasioned by my coming across some similar research on the issue by Danielle Thompson at the conference last week.  Her take:

To explain this divergence, I develop a theory of Party Fit. The central claim is that ideological conformity with the party shapes the decision to run for office. I find that, regardless of gender, moderate state legislators are less likely to be attracted to a congressional career and less likely to run for Congress than those at the ideological extremes. The findings have gendered implications because, first, Republican women in the pipeline have historically been to the left of their male counterparts, and second, there is a dearth of conservative women in the pipeline.

Does not look like we’ll see much change in this gap anytime soon.  From a political optics perspective, this probably benefits Democrat’s claims of the “Republican war on women.”  Also, I think it is a good thing to have more women in legislatures period (plenty of good PS on this).  And the fact that there’s this stagnation among Republican women is a significant impediment to actually getting more women in legislatures.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Whither the Republican women legislators?

  1. Deborah Ferry says:

    Good points although I still wonder how any woman, other than some Stepford Wife, can even be a Republican these days.

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