Report Finds a Large Gender Gap in Political Aspirations Among College Students

lawless-JA study co-authored by Jennifer L. Lawless, associate professor of government and director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University in Washington, D.C., finds that young women in college are not as interested in careers in politics as their male peers.

The authors conducted a survey of 2,100 college students nationwide. The results showed that women were less likely than men to consider running for office, to express interest in holding political office, or to consider the holding of an elective office a desirable career option.

The survey found that men were twice as likely as women to have thought about running for office “many times.” The percentage of women who had never considered running for office was 20 point higher than for their male peers.

“High-profile women in politics may suggest that the landscape of U.S. politics has changed and that male dominance has waned. But we need to be careful not to conclude that women today are just as likely as men to aspire to run for office and that, in the future, women will be eager to seize the reins of political power,” Dr. Lawless said. “The gap is so large that women’s under-representation in elective office is likely to extend well into the future.”

Dr. Lawless is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York, where she majored in political science. She went on to receive a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science at Stanford University. She co-authored the report with Richard L. Fox, a professor at Loyola Marymount University.

The report, Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young Americans’ Political Ambition, can be downloaded here.

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