Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
United States
Virginia Wesleyan College
Public opinion, women in politics, political behavior, political information/misinformation, political communication
Media Contact

Personal Info

About Me

My previous research examined the causes and consequences of gender gaps, or sex based systemic differences in the policy preferences and vote choice. Drawing together literature in a wide array of fields, I provide a more comprehensive theory of the factors underlying gender gap emergence. My work suggests that gender gaps emerge for different reasons in different issue areas and on different types of questions. For instance, feminist values play a role in the development of gender gaps much more on social policy questions than on foreign policy questions.

Moving forward, I have two areas that I’m conducting research. The first area explores how the media both helps and hinders female candidates. In particular, I’m interested in how the media may affect candidate emergence and how gendered patterns of media coverage may be exploited by female candidates to help them win, especially during competitive primaries.

One project, soon to be published by PS: Political Science and Politics and featured on the blog The Conversation, examines how the media’s coverage of female candidates as ‘firsts” may actually help female candidates appeal to certain types of voters. In particular, my research suggests that independent voters and women voters evaluations of female candidates improve when reminded of the historic firsts associated with their candidacies.

Another current project explores how media stereotypes of women affect their propensity to run for office. Using content analysis of children’s programming and an experiment with young children, I examine how the presentation of “feminine” characteristics contributes to gender disparities in political representation by presenting behaviors commonplace in politics, like behaving assertively or expressing disagreement, as unfeminine.

The second area of research that I am pursuing examines political misinformation and fact checking. I have one project that examines how information flows through social networks, paying special attention to the conditions under which misinformation is most likely to flourish. In a work co-authors and I will soon be submitting to Political Behavior, we find that the position of “rejectors” in a network is the most important predictor of rumor dissemination. To the extent that people selection their networks and media sources, rejectors are unlikely to be evenly distributed in the population. This suggests that as social media use and partisan media flourish, we may be entering a time when rumors are more likely to spread widely.

Another project examines how journalists can best tailor “fact-checking” stories to persuade voters. I find that when journalists employ sources that news consumers trust, then those consumers are more likely to find their fact checking stories compelling.


Recent Publications

Caughell, L. (Forthcoming). “When Playing the Woman Card Is Playing Trump: Assessing the Efficacy of Framing Campaigns as Historic.” PS: Political Science and Politics.

Caughell, L, et al. (2016). “Integrating Technology in the Political Science Classroom.” PS: Political Science and Politics.

Caughell, L. (2016) “The Political Battle of the Sexes: Exploring the Sources of Gender Gaps in Policy Preferences” Baltimore, MD: Lexington Books.

Caughell, L. (2014). Review of “More Women Can Run: Gender and Pathways to the State Legislatures” The Journal of Politics, 76(4).

Caughell, L. (2013). “Television Personalities and Social Media in Politics” in Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics. Kerric Harvey and J. G. Golson

Media Coverage

“Clinton in Polls.” The Matt Townsend Show. National Public Radio.

“Will the Historic Nature of Clinton’s Nomination Give Her a Bump in the Polls?” The Conversation (featured in a number of national news outlets, including The New Republic, Business Insider, the Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post Examiner, and San Francisco Chronicle)


“Academic Studies of Political Fact-Checking.” Verbatim: Ballotpedia’s  Fact-Checking Desk. Ballotpedia.


“Research: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising in Accountability Journalism.” American Press Institute, August 12th, 2015.



“Looking at Rumors as Viruses, and More Studies from Scholars Who Study Truth and Politics.” American Press Institute, April 17th, 2015.


“Va. Lawmakers Take Fewer Gifts, with Some Exceptions.” The Virginian Pilot, January 21st, 2015.


“Fraim Paid $1,400 to Jet to Baltimore Waterside Talks.” The Virginian Pilot, October 23rd, 2014.

Country Focus

Research Areas

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