American Government and Politics

Job Talk: Candidate Sex and Presentation of Prior Experience in Televised Ads



Why do some candidates advertise their pre-office experience to voters while others do not? We ask whether the sex of the candidate makes a difference. Women often gain more qualifications than men before running for office. Female candidates have incentives to message those qualifications to voters to compensate for gendered expectations of prior experience. For evidence, we analyze the contents of 1044 televised advertisements from 2018 state legislative candidates from the Wesleyan Media Project. We find that women are no more likely than men to highlight their professional backgrounds in TV ads. However, we find that male candidates are significantly more likely to highlight prior political experience. The relationship is moderated by incumbency status, such that male challengers advertise their political experience more than female challengers. The results raise fresh questions about gender differences in campaign communication and voters’ expectations of male and female candidates.


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