Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Role Models Revisited: Youth, Novelty, and the Impact of Female Candidates

Campbell, David E.; Wolbrecht, Christina
Politics, Groups, and Identities

Do female politicians serve as political role models? This paper is the first to employ panel data to examine whether the presence of non-presidential female candidates leads to an increased propensity for political engagement – specifically, discussion – among women. We hypothesize that younger people who are still learning and establishing political engagement habits will become more politically engaged when exposed to female role models. We do not find evidence of a role model effect overall or among co-partisans. We do find that younger women become significantly more likely to discuss politics when they experience a viable and new female candidate. Importantly, we only find this effect when the female candidate is not a current office holder, suggesting the novelty of female candidates may be key. We do not find a similar effect among older women.