Nichole Bauer, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University
I am an assistant professor of political communication in the Department of Political Science and the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Previously, I was an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College. I received my PhD in 2014 from Indiana University.
Gender and Politics
Research Methods & Research Design
My research investigates how political communication shapes how voters evaluate political candidates. I am particularly interested in identifying how and when voters use gender stereotpes to evaluate female political candidates. My research looks at how candidate campaign strategies and the news media influences whether voters use gender stereotypes to make electoral choices about female candidates. I use multiple methods to trace how voters form choices about political candidates including experiments, content analyses, and observational research methods.
Existing empirical research finds that female candidates have higher levels of qualifications for political office compared to male candidates. An untested assumption behind this finding is that female candidates must have stronger qualifications to overcome feminine stereotypes that characterize women as ill qualified for leadership positions. I test this assumption by drawing on psychology research to develop a theory that explains how a candidate’s sex affects the way voters evaluate the qualifications of political candidates. Using innovative survey experiments, the results show that, across multiple experiments, voters hold female candidates, relative to male candidates, to more stringent qualification standards, and these higher standards limit the ability of female candidates to secure electoral support. These findings uncover a subtle but pernicious source of bias facing female candidates. The implications speak to how candidate sex affects voter decision-making and the ability of democratic institutions to select the best candidates for leadership.
Extant scholarship offers conflicting conclusions about whether female candidates emphasize feminine or masculine stereotypes in campaigns. We suggest that female candidates use both stereotypes, and do so by varying the use of these stereotypes in the visual and the verbal content of a single message. We measure how candidates vary the use of gender stereotypes in the visual and the verbal message of a single campaign ad. We predict that female candidates will pair feminine visuals with masculine verbal messages. We argue that using visuals to communicate femininity is a subtle way for female candidates to address the “double-bind” that demands female candidates display masculine competency and feminine warmth. With a unique measure, we uncover three key findings. First, female candidates have a higher probability of airing a campaign ad that incorporates feminine visuals compared to male candidates. Second, female candidates are more likely to emphasize feminine visuals relative to masculine visuals. Third, female candidates air campaign ads with a higher degree of visual-verbal conflict pairing feminine visuals with masculine verbal messages. Our research has broad implications for how female candidates overcome gendered expectations. We also show that voters receive “mixed” stereotype messages that can, potentially, affect voter decision-making.
Current scholarship offers conflicting conclusions about whether female candidates have a feminine advantage or a disadvantage. Previous work does not consider whether voters respond similarly to all types of messages that might emphasize feminine stereotypes such as feminine trait and feminine issue messages. I argue that voters will respond differently to trait-based feminine messages relative to issue-based feminine messages. I test the effects of trait-based and issue-based feminine messages through two survey experiments. The results consistently show that emphasizing feminine traits harms female candidates whereas emphasizing feminine issues helps female candidates. I use role congruity theory to argue that feminine traits emphasize activate feminine stereotypes about women and feminine issues will not activate these stereotypes. I also show that trait-based and issue-based feminine messages affect Democratic and Republican female candidates in very different ways. These results hold implications for the ability of women to win elected office and reverse the pervasive under-representation of women in politics.
What does it take for women to win political office? This book uncovers a gendered qualifications gap, showing that women need to be significantly more qualified than men to win elections. Applying insights from psychology and political science and drawing on experiments, public opinion data, and content analysis, Nichole M. Bauer presents new evidence of how voter biases and informational asymmetries combine to disadvantage female candidates. The book shows that voters conflate masculinity and political leadership, receive less information about the political experiences of female candidates, and hold female candidates to a higher qualifications standard. This higher standard is especially problematic for Republican female candidates. The demand for masculinity in political leaders means these women must "look like men" but also be better than men to win elections.
Drawing on recent, original data, Politicking While Female examines the life cycle of a woman’s political career. The first section charts the development of political identities that shape women’s participation in politics as voters and as potential candidates, with attention to the patterns of socialization that can discourage women from seeing themselves as political leaders. The next two sections focus on the process of deciding to run for public office, especially the crucial role of mentors, and the challenges female candidates face when campaigning, as they work to raise money, develop effective messages, and overcome voter biases regarding women in leadership roles. The final section explores how women govern once in office, showing the impact of having larger numbers of women in positions of political power.
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