Women are more likely than men to blame structural factors for women's political under-representation: evidence from 27 countries

Peter Allen, David Cutts

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Over time, gender and politics research has made progress in identifying those factors that result in low numbers of women in political institutions and in making evidence-informed suggestions about how to ameliorate them. These factors include discrimination in party recruitment processes, male-dominated political culture, and broader gender inequalities in society. In contrast, we know little of public opinion regarding these drivers of women’s political under-representation, especially whether to who or what women assign blame for the under-representation of women in politics differs from men. In this paper we provide the first discussion and analysis of blame assignment for women’s numeric under-representation in politics. In doing so, we outline and operationalise a framework that distinguishes between meritocratic explanations of women’s under-representation, whereby the blame for women
not holding political office in greater numbers is assigned to women themselves, and structural explanations, whereby social forces external to women are seen to result in their numeric under-representation. We use cross-national data from 27 European countries to show that women are significantly more likely than men to assign blame for women’s numeric under-representation to structural factors. Further, we exploit the hierarchical nature of our dataset using multilevel models and find significant differences in levels of structural
blame assignment between countries as well as between-country variation in the probability of women assigning blame to structural explanations for women’s under-representation. Finally, we disaggregate the category of structural explanations to assess their relative prominence and provide strong corroborative evidence that women predominantly assign blame for women’s under-representation to political culture over other structural blame
factors. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for policymakers contemplating the pursuit of gender equality policies aimed at increasing women’s political representation and make suggestions for the direction of future research in this area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Early online date28 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jun 2018


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