News coverage of female politicians focuses on personality, males on the issues

Jul 03, 2013

With more and more women representing the 50 states on Capitol Hill every year, many have noted that female politicians are not given the same treatment as males in the media. A recent study from a special mini symposium in Political Research Quarterly finds that news coverage of female politicians focuses more on character traits and less on their policy arguments than it does for their male counterparts.

"There is clear variation across [poltical] races in terms of the focus of news stories," stated study authors Johanna Dunaway, Regina G. Lawrence, Melody Rose, and Christopher R. Weber. "In line with the previous literature and our own expectations, on the whole, races with female candidates are more likely to feature trait stories than male versus male races."

Dunaway et. al collected data from approximately 10,000 newspaper articles covering statewide elections (Senate and gubernatorial races) in the 2006 and 2008 elections across the US.They found that for male-only , the stories focused on character traits 6% of the time and the issues 55.5% of the time, for male-female races, the articles focused on traits 10.8% of the time and the issues 53.1% of the time, and for female-only elections, the stories focused on character traits 9.4% of the time and on the issues 51.7% of the time.

The researchers concluded, "Races with a female candidate lead to news that is more focused on the and characteristics of the candidates, and this finding is especially stark for gubernatorial campaigns."

The article, "Traits versus Issues: How Female Candidates Shape Coverage of Senate and Gubernatorial Races," by Dunaway et. al. is one of three articles that makeup the special mini symposium of PRQ. Each of the articles is available free for a limited time at the links below:

  • Sarah Burns, Lindsay Eberhardt and Jennifer L. Merolla: "What is the difference between a Hockey Mom and a Pit Bull? Presentations of Palin and Gender Stereotypes in the 2008 Presidential Election"
  • Sarah Allen Gershon: "Media Coverage of Minority Congresswomen and Voter Evaluations: Evidence from an Online Experimental Study"

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gender is a relative term in politics, study finds

Sep 30, 2008

For only the second time in presidential debate history, a female nominee will take the stage to spar with a male opponent. While Geraldine Ferraro broke new ground in 1984, it has taken 24 years for another female to be ...

Voters' choices based on performance, not policy

Oct 03, 2012

Voters in U.S. presidential races make choices based on a candidate's performance rather than on his or her policy positions—even when those stances run counter to the voters' own, according to a new book by a University ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

7 hours ago

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

7 hours ago

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

8 hours ago

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

Dec 17, 2014

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
1 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2013
Female Conservative women get the worst treatment by the main stream media. Most likely because Progressives are really the most bigoted hypocritical people around.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.