Study: Sexist insults hurt female politicians
When a female politician is treated or attacked in a sexist manner, her favorability rating declines, often by quite a bit, depending on the type of sexism and sex based insult. And using sexist attacks or language undercut her standing more than attacking her stands on issues.
But, when a woman stands firm and takes a stand aganst the sexism, her favorability tends to remain the same and her attacker's standing may decline. It appears advice to Hillary Clinton to not respond to sexist attacks was not the right way to go. And still she won the vote count.
The study used hypothetical candidates, a male and a female (see link for methodology). It is possible that someone such as Hillary Clinton had built up enough strong identification by the public that the sexist language did not have quite the impact it would have for an unknown or relatively unknown female candidate.
Among the findings:
• The female candidate lost twice as much support when even the mild sexist language was added to the attack. Support for her initially measured at 43% fell to 33% after the policy-based attacks but to 21% after the sexist taunts. The drop was significant among both men and women, those under 50 and over 50, and those with college educations and without.
• The sexist language undermined favorable perceptions of the female candidate, leading voters to view her as less empathetic, trustworthy and effective.
• Responding directly helped the women candidates' regain support. The rebound occurred both after a mild response — the female candidate calling the discussion "inappropriate" and "meritless" and turning back to issues — and after a more direct counterattack that decried "sexist, divisive rhetoric" as damaging to "our political debate and our democracy."
Now, did Harry Reid's reference to NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as "the hottest member" of the Senate do damage to her standing? (What were you thinking, Harry??)
Hat tip to RalphB, linking to this at this at The Confluence in a thread under post about Susie Madrak and her interaction with Axelrod.