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Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton take selfies with campaign supporters after her speech at campaign rally at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal June 27, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

It's your imagination

Gender bias in politics simply does not exist, authors argue

June 29, 2016

Contrary to popular belief, gender bias no longer exists in politics and it’s just as easy for a woman to run for public office in the U.S. in 2016 as it is for a man to do so. At least, that’s the gist of a new book by a pair of political scientists who studied the phenomenon — or lack thereof, as it were.

Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes surveyed 2,000 Americans on whether U.S. politics was a particularly hostile endeavor for women. Respondents by and large viewed politics as a much more difficult profession for women than other career paths, like journalism or law. “The conventional wisdom is that politics is harder,” Lawless told Vox in an interview.

It’s also completely wrong, according to Lawless and Hayes in Women on the Run. It seems there’s at least one quality that can get voters to check their sexism at the door before going to the polls: partisanship. “There is one defining feature that determines how people cast ballots and how donors decide to give,” Lawless said. “That feature is party, not sex.”

Lawless and Hayes studied media coverage of male and female candidates as well. Surely there must be some gender bias there. But their findings say no, not really. The duo analyzed more than 4,500 news stories from the 2014 election cycle and found that the media didn’t much cover some of the stereotypical women’s angles one might expect — like how a candidate dresses while out campaigning. In the sample they studied, Lawless and Hayes found a total of 17 references to female candidates’ appearances and 32 references to male appearances. (It’s worth noting there were also more male candidates than female candidates in 2014 and that national candidates, like Hillary Clinton, are still subject to media scrutiny over their fashion choices.)

Which brings up an obvious question. How can it be true that the U.S. ranks 97th worldwide when it comes to the number of women working in national government if gender bias is not a factor? Lawless and Hayes argue that it’s actually the perception that it’s harder for women to run that keeps more from running.

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