The Advantages of Women Candidates

Dr. Louis Perron
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Political consulting is a field dominated by men. There are only two women who ran a successful U.S. presidential campaign. One of them is Kellyanne Conway, who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. I recently read a piece published by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics where she reflects on that race and women candidates in general. Conway argues that women candidates often have some advantages. They are frequently seen as new and fresh. They are also often perceived as consensus builders, as honestly trying to work across the aisle. Women candidates are also often seen as more ethical and incorruptible. “There is a reason why you have never heard the term “old girls network”. There isn’t one“, says Conway.

At least half of my clients are women candidates and based on my own experience, I can confirm a lot of what Conway says. I have also observed that in focus groups respondents more often use the words “no scandal” to describe women candidates.

Going back to Kellyanne Conway and the 2016 election, Conway notes that nobody saw Hillary Clinton the way just described. Few voters would have described her as fresh, incorruptible or a consensus builder. In fact, while Clinton once was a popular figure (people forget that she left office as Secretary of State with a net positive approval rating), she had turned into a very polarizing figure by summer 2016. The term “double haters” refers to voters who had a negative opinion about both candidates, Trump and Clinton. While disliking both candidates, they were sure about one thing, namely that they did not want to vote for Clinton. On election day, they overwhelmingly voted for Trump and thereby delivered him the victory.

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