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Women in Politics: Quotas, Voter Attitudes and Female Leadership

Published on: February 2009​
Genre: Gender​ Category: Policy Brief/ Policy Note​

Gender quotas are increasingly being used throughout the world as a policy tool to improve women’s participation in politics. While in many cases these policies have succeeded in increasing the number of women politicians, there is a lack of evidence on how exposure to women leaders impacts the beliefs of the average voter. In order to determine the causal effect of affirmative action policies on voter attitudes and electoral outcomes, a study in West Bengal uses a novel approach to look at the effect of mandated reservation in Indian village councils. The study takes advantage of the fact that villages were randomly assigned the reservation policy, and uses speeches and vignettes experiments as well as Implicit Association Tests (IATs) to analyze this issue. The results suggest that repeated exposure to women leaders reduces voter bias against them, and that repeated reservation significantly improves electoral outcomes in the medium term.

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