Mary-Kate Lizotte, Ph.D.

Augusta University

Country: United States (Georgia)

Research Interests

Gender and Politics

Public Opinion

Political Psychology

Gender And Opinion

Gender And Voting

Gender And Partisanship

My Research:

Much of my research is focused on gender differences in public opinion and political behavior. In particular, I have investigated the existence and origins of gender differences in support for torture, support for the Affordable Care Act, support for abortion, support for military interventions, support for genetically modified food, and vote choice. I have also examined voter evaluations of female candidates with respect to prior experience in public office and physical attractiveness. 


Journal Articles:

(2018) Negative Effects of Calling Attention to Female Political Candidates’ Attractiveness, Taylor & Francis

Abstract Given the focus of the media on female candidate appearance in the 2008 presidential election, this research investigates the effects on voter evaluations of calling attention to female candidate attractiveness. The current research hypothesizes that pointing out candidate attractiveness likely has a negative effect on subsequent evaluations and reports of vote likelihood, particularly for female candidates. Role congruity theory, which argues that evidence of prejudice against female leaders is the result of a discrepancy between people’s stereotypes of women and their stereotypes of leaders, provides an explanation for these findings. This study establishes the negative influence of calling attention to a candidate’s attractiveness. In particular, a female candidate described as attractive is evaluated more negatively than a male candidate described as attractive and compared to male and female candidates, who are not described as attractive.

(2017) Gender Differences in Support for Torture, sage

Abstract: Gender differences regarding support for the use of force average around 8 percent and are twice the size of differences on non-force issues. This article investigates a related gender gap in support for the use of torture. I investigate threat perceptions as a possible explanation for the gap and find strong support for this hypothesis. Specifically, increased threat perceptions lead men but not women to be more likely to support the use of torture. In addition to providing an explanation for the gender gap in support for torture, this extends prior work that finds increased threat perceptions with respect to terrorism lead to greater support for aggressive policies.

(2017) Political Experience and the Intersection of Race and Gender, Taylor & Francis

ABSTRACT: Prior research has treated political experience as if it had similar effects for every candidate. However, recent studies suggest that the effects of political experience on trait judgments and candidate evaluations may vary depending on a candidate’s demographic characteristics. Accordingly, this study investigates whether the influence of prior experience varies depending on the racial and gender background of political candidates. To explore this topic, we employ an experiment with a 2 (Race: White and Black) × 2 (Sex: Male and Female) × 2 (Experience: Experienced and Inexperienced) factorial design. The expectation is that political experience will have the greatest impact for white male candidates when compared to female and African American candidates. Furthermore, the study explores the differential effects of political experience by examining whether the influence of experience on competence ratings varies depending on the negative racial and gender attitudes of participants. The findings suggest that citizens are more inclined to distinguish between white male candidates across different levels of political experience, while they evaluate black and/or female candidates similarly, regardless of experience. Moreover, the evidence suggests that gender bias may explain why we observe the disparity between male and female candidates.

(2017) Gender, Partisanship, and Issue Gaps, Wiley online

Abstract: A defining feature of American politics, including party identification, is the question of the proper role of government. Partisanship is a prevailing way that individuals organize their attitudes. Democrats should take the Democratic Party's positions, and Republicans should take the Republican Party's positions. Instead, people have conflicting considerations that shape their opinions. Given that gender is integral in structuring individuals’ positions in society, it is reasonable to expect that gender differences might produce intraparty differences. This article establishes a gender gap in scope of government that transcends partisanship. Using the cumulative American National Election Study Data 1994–2008, I find strong evidence that for a number of issue areas, women are more supportive of an activist government than men of the same party. Preferences regarding the scope of government provide a coherent explanation for these observed gaps.

(2016) Investigating Women’s Greater Support of the Affordable Care Act, elsevier

Abstract: Healthcare reform has recently dominated the political agenda. There is a consistent gender gap in healthcare policy preferences, and women are more likely to support the Affordable Care Act than men. This study investigates two explanations for the origins of this gap, which connect to a larger debate in political behavior whether symbolic versus self-interest reasons drive public opinion. The humanitarian hypothesis tests whether gender differences on pro-social values, such as humanitarianism, account for the gender gap in healthcare attitudes. Second, the economic security hypothesis tests whether these gender differences emerge because of women's self-interest due to their higher levels of economic vulnerability. There is support for both hypotheses, and each partially mediates the gap. Together they fully mediate the gender gap.

(2015) The Abortion Attitudes Paradox: Model Specification and Gender Differences, Taylor & Francis

Abstract: Rather unexpectedly, prior work has failed to find consistent gender differences in public support for legal abortion. Given that gender differences in public opinion emerge for a wide range of other issue areas, it seems paradoxical that there is no consistent gender difference on the issue of abortion. I propose that this failure to find a consistent gender difference is due to how abortion attitudes are modeled. Controlling for religiosity, which research has shown women to score higher on, results in a small and consistent gender gap in support for legal abortion with women more likely than men to support.

(2009) Explaining the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge, Cambridge University Press

Abstract: Much scholarship has noted that there are significant differences in the political behavior of women and men. Women, for example, are found to be more likely to identify as and vote for Democrats, less likely to hold conservative issue positions, and more likely to vote for incumbents. One of the more disturbing gender gaps occurs in political knowledge: Specifically, women are typically found to be less knowledgeable about politics and government than their male counterparts. We propose that much of the gap can be explained by theories of risk aversion, which imply that women are less likely to guess on questions for which they are uncertain. Using item response models, we demonstrate that failure to consider these gender-based differences leads to scales that significantly underestimate the political knowledge of women. Consistent with other work in this area, we find that accounting for the higher propensity of men to guess decreases the gender gap in knowledge by around 36%.

Book Chapters:

(2017) The Gender Gap in Public Opinion: Exploring Social Role Theory as an Explanation, Routledge

The gender gap in public opinion is of considerable interest because gender gaps on issues likely contribute to gender differences in partisanship and voting. This chapter begins with an overview of gender differences on political issues (complementing the focus in Chapter 1 on gender differences in party identification) – that, generally, women are more likely than men to hold liberal positions on issues. This chapter will focus on the key question of explaining these differences, using Social Role Theory, which purports that men and women inhabit different social roles (for example, women as caregiver, men as breadwinner) that then leads to opinion differences because women are socialized to adopt the traits necessary for these roles such as being anti-conflict and compassionate. These social roles can be both diffuse (e.g., a woman) and specific (e.g., a mother). Using an original analysis of the 1980-2012 cumulative American National Election Study Data, this chapter tests the supposition that gender differences in public opinion are largest when diffuse and specific roles intersect, such as support among mothers for maternity leave because of self-interest given their specific role as mother and because of their compassion as a result of their diffuse role as women. The key finding from this analysis is that mothers significantly differ from fathers on a number of policy questions. Specifically, women with children are more likely than men with children to support increased childcare spending, to support increased spending on public schools, and express a desire for more government services. Women with children, however, only partially explain the origins of the gender gaps on these policies. The chapter concludes with implications of the results for the study of the gender gap as well as for applications in American political elections.

(2015) Gender, Voting, and Reproductive Rights Attitudes, Praeger

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, controversy continues to surround abortion legality, as it remains a topic of much public attention and political debate. In 2012, among other policy positions, abortion received much attention because of the supposed “war on women,” in which the GOP was perceived as supporting several policy initiatives that went directly against women’s interests including abortion, contraceptives, and various economic policies. Given its differential impact on women, it is reasonable to suspect that reproductive rights attitudes might have a greater influence on women’s partisanship and vote choice. Moreover, the recent focus of the media on the “war on women” highlights the popular notion that reproductive rights have a strong influence on women’s identification with one of the two major political parties and their presidential vote decisions. Prior research, however, has not established consistent and/or sizeable gender differences in abortion attitudes. To date, some research finds no difference while others find small differences in both directions. Although a gender gap in legal support for abortion fails to consistently materialize, it is possible that abortion attitudes are more predictive of women’s party identification and vote decisions in comparison to men. The goal of this chapter is to explore the relationship between abortion attitudes and political behavior of men and women. Specifically, I investigate the existence of gender differences in reliance on abortion attitudes for partisanship and vote choice over the last four presidential elections, using the 2000, 2004, and 2008 data from the American National Election Study (ANES) cumulative data file and the 2012 ANES preliminary release data file; each year is analyzed separately