The symbolic impact of women’s representation on citizens’ political attitudes
Congreso Español de Ciencia Política
Women’s political presence is expected to impact on citizens’ political attitudes by symbolizing that women are just as capable to govern as men, which provides a role model effect to female citizens and signals the inclusiveness of the political system to all social groups. Research on whether women’s representation enhances the legitimacy of, closeness to and satisfaction with political institutions, as well as levels of political engagement is still in its infancy, not least because of several empirical and methodological challenges, including issues of spuriousness, reversed causation and endogeneity. We use an experimental online survey specifically designed to examine whether exposure to distinct scenarios about greater women’s representation and its concomitant effects have an impact on citizens’ political attitudes. Our results show that respondents’ evaluation of the political system is positively influenced by the use of framing on greater women’s representation whereas their political engagement remains rather unaffected. Symbolic effects are found for both men and especially for women respondents. The results hold for the two countries where the experiment was administered, Spain and Portugal, which provides our study with an increased external validity.