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Sex as a Political Variable: Women as Candidates and Voters in U.S. Elections

Richard A. Seltzer, Jody Newman, and Melissa Vorhees Leighton
ISBN: 978-1-55587-736-1
1997/189 pages/LC: 97-9105

"Combines synthesis and analysis and presents results in a lively and engaging style that is sure to appeal to general readers as well as academics, students, and practitioners.... This book will be the definitive reference on this subject for years."—Choice

"This is the book that helps separate fact from fiction. It should be read before saying one more word about the 'women’s vote,' the 'gender gap,' or the success rates of women candidates."—Harriet Woods

"It is likely to become a touchstone for all future work on women and politics."—William G. Mayer


Though women constitute 52 percent of U.S. voters, as of October, 1996 only 10 percent of the members of Congress and one of the 50 state governors are women. Why, more than 75 years after they won the right to vote, are women so severely underrepresented in elected office? Why does it seem that, as voters, their influence is not equal to their numbers? Much of the conventional wisdom and commentary about women in the electoral system is based on impression or personal experience. This book, in contrast, presents original research and the most comprehensive analysis to date on women as candidates and voters in U.S. politics. Drawing on a massive database on women and men as congressional candidates, as well as data from the Census Bureau, exit polls, and national election surveys, Sex as a Political Variable examines a number of important questions, including: Why aren't there more women in office? Is it tougher for women to win elections? What are the differences between women and men as voters with regard to party loyalty, policy issues, and the sex of a particular candidate? Supported by rigorous methodology and thoughtful analysis, the authors offer essential insight into these and other key issues concerning the participation of women in the U.S. political system.


Richard A. Seltzer is professor of political science at Howard University. An expert in research methods and the statistical analysis of public opinion, he has studied public attitudes about AIDS, jurors, and racial matters. His recent books include Mistakes that Social Scientists Make: Error and Redemption in the Research Process and, with Robert C. Smith, Race, Class, and Culture: A Study of Afro-American Mass Opinion. Jody Newman is executive director of the League of American Bicyclists and former executive director of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC). She was political director of the National Women's Campaign Fund from 1983-84 and was manager of Harriett Woods' campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and 1986. She is the author of Perception and Reality: A Study Comparing the Success of Men and Women Candidates. Melissa Voorhees Leighton was on the staff of NWPC in 1991-1995.


  • Ten Myths about Women and Politics.
  • How Men and Women Differ on Issues and Demographics.
  • The Gender Gap.
  • Are Women Candidates As Likely to Win Elections as Male Candidates?
  • Do Women Vote for Women?
  • The Gender Gap Within Demographic Groupings.
  • A Multivariate Analysis of the Gender Gap.
  • Epilogue: The Results of the 1996 Elections.