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Hillary's Advantage: Being a She

Feb 01, 2007 | Updated May 25, 2011

The Hillary juggernaut, now in full rumble, has shaken loose an old
question about gender and prejudice: Does a major-party candidate lose
an important number of votes by being a she instead of a he?

Sure, a recent poll says 92 percent of Americans would vote for a woman presidential candidate, but it's well known that people interviewed by pollsters want to appear more broad-minded than
they really are. With more oblique methods of measuring attitudes, others argue that as much as 25 percent of the population might have a problem voting for a Madame President.

And yet according to this study of people's voting behavior in
Finland, there's also an advantage to being the female candidate:
Women like you. They rate you as more beautiful than men do. And, more
importantly, they vote for you.

Indeed, according to the paper by the
economists Niclas Berggren, Henrik Jordahl and Panu Poutvaara,

In a hypothetical election, we furthermore observe that
female respondents tend to favor female candidates, while male
respondents tend to vote equally often for men and
women. Controlling for choices of the most beautiful, most competent,
and most trustworthy
candidate in a linear probability model confirms this general picture:
female respondents
tend to vote for women to a larger extent than men tend to vote for men.

The main point of their research was to study the effect of
attractiveness on political fortunes -- they add to evidence that being
rated as attractive helps you get votes. Still, if women are kinder to
women in those ratings, and more inclined to vote for women, while
Testostero-Americans show no such solidarity, then maybe people have
been asking the wrong question here. Maybe the issue is not how much
being female hurts a candidate, but how much it helps.