Voters: Women’s looks in politics don’t matter

Washington Post | Posted on

Of late, the press’s tendency to cover the style choices of women in politics has attracted a bit of controversy.

Critics lambasted as sexist both a New York Times story about the purses (and “purse boys”) of women in Congress and a Washington Post article about White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler’s stylish shoes. These pieces seemed to underscore the urgency of a much-publicized report by the organization “Name It. Change It.,” which showed that when the media focus on female candidates’ appearance, voters are lesslikely to support them.

But a recent study we conducted suggests otherwise. We find that women don’t pay a higher price than men for coverage of their appearance. Unflattering coverage does hurt, but it lowers voters’ assessments of both men and women equally. Like other emerging political science research, we show that voters don’t hold women and men to different standards on the campaign trail.

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