Candidate choice survey experiments in the form of conjoint or vignette experiments have become a standard part of the political science toolkit for understanding the effects of candidate characteristics on vote choice. We collect 67 such studies from all over the world and reanalyze them using a standardized approach. We find that the average effect of being a woman (relative to a man) is a gain of approximately 2 percentage points. We find some evidence of heterogeneity across contexts, candidates, and respondents. The difference is somewhat larger for white (vs. black) candidates and among survey respondents who are women (vs. men) or, in the US context, identify as Democrats or Independents (vs. Republicans). Our results add to the growing body of experimental and observational evidence that voter preferences are not a major factor explaining the persistently low rates of women in elected office.
Authors: Susanne Schwarz, MPPP ’15, and Alexander Coppock