Donโ€™t blame the candidate? A text analysis of gendered differences in political self-presentation 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? 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 emphasis gendered traits. Finally, candidates may be more likely to engage in gendered behaviour in electoral environments where gender is particularly salient. The continued masculine ethos within politics may be strengthened by gender differences in politiciansโ€™ self-presentation to voters, and therefore it matters whether candidates themselves are internally motivated to engage in gendered behaviour or whether gendered strategies could be minimised through attention to other actors: in particular, parties and media. In this study, the gendered elements of elections (gendered media and electoral gender salience) are experimentally manipulated and external forces that may artificially increase gender differences in candidatesโ€™ self-presentation to voters are removed, by creating a campaign and election task in a lab experiment. 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 participants strategically adjust their gendered self-presentation depending on the media environment and how salient gender is in the election.