Donโ€™t blame the candidate โ€” A text analysis of gendered differences in the self-presentation of politicians in a lab experiment

Amanda Haraldsson, European University Institute


How much of the difference that we as citizens (and voters) see between male and female politicians is due to genuine differences in how politicians themselves communicate? The literature finds many examples of how male and female politicians are different from one another. Yet, what is often left out of analyses of gender differences in politiciansโ€™ communication is empirically examining the effect of external forces in creating the gender difference: the effect of party pressures, campaign strategists and filtering effects of media. Moreover, candidates may actively interpret the media environment when choosing how to portray themselves to voters, including whether to for example โ€˜play the woman cardโ€™, engage in masculine over-compensation and other deliberate or subconscious ways of emphasising gendered traits. Finally, candidates may be more likely to engage in gendered behaviour in electoral environments where gender is particularly salient. In this study, the gendered elements of elections (media gender discrimination and electoral gender salience) are experimentally manipulated and external forces that may artificially increase gender differences in candidateโ€™s self-presentation to voters are removed. A text analysis is performed on participantsโ€™ election promises in different treatment conditions, to investigate 1) if gender differences emerge even without party, strategist and media filtering influences and 2) if candidates strategically adjust their gendered self-presentation depending on the media environment and how salient gender is in the election.