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Symbolic Appeals to Women on Congressional Candidates' Campaign Websites

Fri, August 30, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Thurgood Marshall West


Existing scholarship on the “symbolic representation” of women in American politics explores the link between women’s physical presence in politics and increased political engagement among women in the electorate. This work tends to set aside the ways in which women and gender may be present in men’s rhetoric and does not often disaggregate women as a group. Furthermore, this work only considers positive psychological mechanisms that could lead to increased political engagement among women, while research within political psychology suggests that negative responses, such as anger, can be powerful mobilizing forces. Through computer-assisted text analysis of 2018 congressional candidates’ campaign websites and interviews with volunteers for women congressional candidates in 2018, this paper will examine differences in appeals to women across candidate sex, party, and race as well as responses to candidate appeals among a particularly engaged group of women. A final section will discuss the implications of the findings for the theory of symbolic representation in American politics.