The positive externality of women candidates

Really liked this Monkey Cage with the latest research from two political scientists I know and admire, David Cambpell and Christina Wolbrecht.  They find some really cool effects of more women running for office beside the obvious benefit of having more women in office.  I especially appreciate that they surveyed adolescent girls for their research.  Any time you do research on minors, that’s really hard to get done:

We say this based on a survey we gave to a national sample of 997 American teenagers, ages 15-18, in the heat of the 2016 election campaign; we then returned to the same teens in 2017 and during the 2018 midterm election campaign. (You can find more details, if you like, about our survey and analysis.)

From 2016 to 2017, there was a stunning change in how girls, especially those who identify as Democrats, viewed the state of democracy in America. In 2016, 37 percent of Democratic girls said that the political system helps people with their genuine needs. A year later, that had fallen by a substantial 20 percentage points. This drop was largest among Democratic girls. Democratic boys dropped, but by about half as much, while the attitudes of Republican boys and girls did not budge.

When we interviewed the same teens again in 2018, Democratic girls’ faith in democracy had rebounded; 30 percent said that democracy was working — not quite what it was in 2016, but much higher than a year before…

Many Democratic girls who live in places where one or more women ran for the House, Senate, or for governor changed their minds about American democracy. Instead of unresponsive, they now saw it as representing people’s needs.

But where there were no women candidates, the needle did not move. The graph below shows the substantial increase in Democratic girls’ faith in American democracy if they live in a place where more Democratic women ran for office. There was a similar, if more modest increase, among Democratic boys and Republican girls. The exception is Republican boys, who actually became more negative toward American democracy.

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Pretty cool.  And definitely even more reason to get more women running for political office.

And, maybe someday, we can be more like Finland 🙂 which gives us this Vox headline, “Finland’s new parliament is dominated by women under 35.”


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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