Bias at the ballot box?

7 Nov 2009

Using data from all elections to the Australian House of Representatives between 1903 and 2004, this paper examines the relationship between candidates’ gender and their share of the vote.

The authors find that the vote share of female candidates is 0.6 percentage points smaller than that of male candidates (for major parties, the gap widens to 1½ percentage points), but find little evidence that the party preselection system is responsible for the voting bias against women. Over time, the gap between male and female candidates has shrunk considerably as a result of changes in social norms (as proxied by the gender pay gap and attitudinal data) and the share of female candidates running nationwide. We find little evidence that party-based affirmative action policies have reduced the gender penalty against female candidates.

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