Unveiling or Concealing Aspirations: How candidate gender influences voter response to political ambition

Author Name ENDO Yuya (Osaka University) / ONO Yoshikuni (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. October 2023 23-E-074
Research Project Advanced Technology and Democracy: Does new technology help or hurt democracy?
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Do male and female candidates equally benefit from disclosing their political ambitions during electoral campaigns? Generally, candidates for elective office are politically ambitious individuals vying for positions of power. There is a pervasive stereotype of women that sees them as ideally modest and reserved, which is potentially contradictory to the seemingly masculine nature of political office. Voters swayed by this stereotype may not reward female candidates for openly expressing their political ambitions to the same extent they would male candidates. To investigate this issue, we conducted a vignette experiment where both the candidate’s gender and their stated motivation for seeking office were randomly manipulated. Our findings reveal that respondents favored candidates—regardless of gender—who were transparent about their political ambition. Nevertheless, male candidates who openly displayed ambition were perceived as more favorable among voters, whereas female candidates did not receive a comparable boost to their image. These results indicate that the electoral benefits garnered from revealing political ambitions are not equally distributed between men and women.