Mars needs women (and so does the US Congress)

Alright, maybe Mars, not so much.  One of my favorite pieces of political science research on gender is Lonna Atkeson’s piece from 11 years ago that shows having a high-profile female candidate in a state leads to greater political engagement of that state’s female citizens.  And since women, on average, lag behind men in political engagement, more female candidates is especially good not just for women in office, but for the role of women throughout our democracy.

The Monkey Cage now highlights a new article that very much builds on this line of research in showing that women voters are actually more aware of the positions of their female Senators:

If, say, you’re a woman who lives in Louisiana, you’re more likely to know that Mary Landrieu voted for it than you are that David Vitter voted against it.

That’s one insight from a new article (ungated) by political scientist Philip Edward Jones. He finds that women know more about how their female senators vote and are more likely to hold them accountable for those votes than when they’re represented by men. There’s also suggestive evidence that this might be true for male voters as well. Maybe electing women makes for better citizens…

Female voters were more likely to know the legislative records of their female senators than male senators. In 2006, for instance, Jones found that controlling for a host of other factors — partisanship, how long a senator had been in office, and so forth — women knew were able to correctly identify about 45 percent of the votes of their male senators. But when they were represented by women, they were able to say how they voted about 52 percemt of the time…

The votes of female senators were also more consequential for how their female constituents evaluated them.

To lessen the gender gap in political participation and engagement, it is more clear than ever that we need to have more women in political office– an improving trend that has very much slowed.  The problem is not voters, the problem is that we simply need more women running for office.  And that problem is that not enough women want to run for office.  That’s what we really need to change.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Mars needs women (and so does the US Congress)

  1. Pingback: Gender connections | From guestwriters

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