Women Run More Sophisticated Campaigns, UC Study Says

Apr 13, 2020

A UC political science professor and his graduate students combed through more than 1,300 League of Women Voters questionnaires looking at how women and men run for office and if they take on the task differently.

The researchers studied everything from local school board campaigns to the U.S. Senate in 2016 and are in the process of looking at 2018 races. They will comb through 2020 questionnaires when available.

Associate Professor of Political Science David Niven found that even when the odds are against women, they tend to run more sophisticated campaigns.

"Men will run for office at the drop of a hat. In long shot circumstances, men's campaigns tend to be very amateurish," Niven says.

He gives the example of a race in Austin, Texas, where traffic congestion was a concern.

"One woman who won her race spoke generally about her goals and the shared reality that 'we all sit in traffic together.' One unsuccessful male candidate got himself trapped in the confines of the questions and went into great detail, including discussing his hope for developing moving sidewalks like on The Jetsons."

He says women were less likely to get caught up in details that can lose votes and take away from their message.

Since men and women attract votes at about the same rate, Niven says, "It's not so much evidence of a level playing field that everybody's fair." Instead, he says, "It's evidence of women overcoming hurdles and working harder just to finish equal overall."

Niven's research has been accepted in the June edition of Political Research Quarterly.