Intersectional Stereotyping in Political Campaigns
Hicks, Heather Mary
Banks, Antoine J.
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Political scientists have debated whether gender stereotypes influence support for women candidates. Similarly, scholars have examined how racism among whites affects evaluations of minority candidates. Yet, rarely have political scientists considered how racism and gender bias intersect when a female minority candidate runs for office. In this dissertation, I propose a theory of intersectional stereotyping, which argues that evaluations of black women candidates are influenced by unique stereotypes based on the intersection of race and gender. Specifically, I argue that stereotypes associating black women with agentic traits (such as assertiveness, dominance, and anger) put black women at a disadvantage when they run for elected office. I hypothesize that members of racial or gender out-groups will penalize black women candidates when they receive campaign information consistent with these agentic stereotypes. On the other hand, I expect that black women will reward an agentic black female candidate because these traits suggest that the candidate is willing and able to stand up for the interests of black women. I test these expectations using a content analysis and two national survey experiments (one using a sample of whites and the other using a sample of blacks). In my content analysis of the 2018 Democratic primary for governor of Georgia, I find that Stacey Abrams, the black female candidate, was more likely to be described with agentic traits, especially negative agentic traits, in newspaper coverage than Stacey Evans, her white female opponent. My experimental data demonstrates that this media coverage of agentic traits puts black women at a disadvantage among white voters. White voters are more likely to penalize a black female candidate for acting in an assertive manner than identical white female and black male candidates. However, I find no penalty or reward for the assertive black female candidate among black voters. This research underscores the importance of studying the influence of race and gender in politics simultaneously. We cannot fully understand the effects of race and gender on support for minority women candidates by studying these concepts in isolation from one another.