University Study Finds Women Legislators Are Asked to Do More for Their Constituents Than Male Legislators

A new study by scholars at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden finds that women who hold elected office often are asked to do more by their constituents than male office holders.

The researchers worked with one pair of Republican representatives and one pair of Democrat representatives. The pairs represented the same set of constituents, belonged to the same political party, were the same race, and had similar positions on the bills before their legislature. The key difference between the legislators in each pair was their gender: one man and one woman. The legislators sent letters to their constituents, asking for input via a survey. Half of the constituents were contacted by their female representative and half were contacted by their male representative. The study found that women legislators are 10 percent more likely to be contacted by their constituents, and they receive 14 percent more issue requests per constituent they contact.

“There is a lot of evidence that women do more unpaid work than men. These findings suggest that the same patterns may apply in politics,” said Daniel Butler, professor and associate chair of political science at Washington University in St. Louis and the lead author of the study. “Gender stereotypes are one reason that constituents might ask female legislators to do more,” Dr. Butler said. “Voters may see women as less qualified to handle the male-dominant political work and feel the need to push them harder. Alternatively, voters may see women as being more willing to act on requests they receive or as caring more about others’ well-being. If constituents seek help from legislators who they think are more likely to listen and care, these stereotypes would make them more likely to contact female legislators.”

The full study, “Constituents Ask Female Legislators to Do More,” was published on the website of The Journal of Politics. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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