Voters prefer decisions made by gender balanced groups

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today, it’s the words of Professor Jennifer Piscopo, writing for the Electoral Reform Society:

Amanda Clayton (University of California, Berkeley), Diana O’Brien (Washington University in St. Louis), and I study citizens’ attitudes about political representation.

We find that citizens strongly prefer that political decision-making bodies have gender parity, meaning that they have equal numbers of men and women. Even when governments require gender quotas for women candidates, citizens still prefer to see gender parity amongst officeholders.

We conducted experiments using public opinion surveys. In these survey experiments, different respondents saw different news articles, but then everyone answered the same set of questions. This allows us to compare how the different articles shaped participants’ responses…

The original study was performed in the United States, but our follow-up experiment was performed in 8 countries – including the United Kingdom…

[Moreover,] participants … viewed a council with gender parity obtained via a quota as far more legitimate than a council composed entirely of men.

When women are represented in elected office, even with quotas in place, the institutions are seen as more fair, more trustworthy, and ultimately more democratic…

These results follow other studies showing that gender quotas enhance, rather than diminish, democratic outcomes. For example, when gender quotas lead to more women in office, women citizens express more trust in government and more satisfaction with democracy. Women citizens may be especially aware that, when more women are in office, policy becomes more responsive to their needs.

Other research has also shown how action on gender equality can raise the quality of people elected too.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

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