Concerns over mass-level contempt and hostility across party lines – what scholars label affective polarization – have intensified in recent years across Western democracies. While scholars link this phenomenon to policy disputes, economic conditions, and political institutions, no extant study asks whether women’s presence in elected office influences affective polarization. We present theoretical arguments that women’s presence in parties’ parliamentary delegations defuses dislike among their partisan opponents, and we evaluate this claim by empirically analyzing an original dataset on women’s presence in party parliamentary delegations in 20 western democracies, combined with Comparative Study of Electoral Systems survey data on partisans’ affective ratings of parties. Our analyses confirm that, indeed, partisans express warmer feelings toward out-parties with higher proportions of female MPs (all else equal), but that this effect dissipates as parties’ MP delegations approach gender parity. Our findings have implications for parties’ election strategies and for affective polarization.
Bio: Jim Adams is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Davis. He studies voting behavior, parties' election strategies, and mass-elite linkages in Western democracies. His work encompasses spatial models of party competition, and empirical analyses of parties' policy programs and of election outcomes. His research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the British Journal of Political Science. His recent book from Cambridge University Press, American Affective Polarization in Comparative Perspective (2020, with Noam Gidron and Will Horne), analyzes the intensity and the causes of cross-party hostility across 20 Western publics.