When Playing the Woman Card is Playing Trump: Assessing the Efficacy of Framing Campaigns as Historic
Leslie Caughell, (@lcaughell), Virginia Wesleyan College
Political pundits assume that being the “first” confers some advantage to candidates. Such an advantage would be particularly important to the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who is the first woman to lead a major party ticket. Yet little scholarly research demonstrates the effectiveness of emphasizing the historical nature of candidacies as a campaign strategy. Does playing up one’s gender – “playing the woman card” as GOP nominee Donald Trump called it – actually help female candidates get elected? New research indicates that being a historic first may benefit candidates, but only among certain types of voters. Playing the gender card appeals to voters traditionally underrepresented in politics and to weak Democrats and Independents. Gender-based appeals have less impact on those with who do not believe gender inequalities exist or that the government should address such inequalities, attitudes most common among white men and conservatives. This finding suggests that playing the gender card may benefit Democratic female candidates in elections more than Republican ones. So while Hillary Clinton might benefit from being the first female Democratic nominee, whoever becomes the first female Republican nominee may not receive the same benefit from the historic nature of her candidacy.