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Electoral Institutions and the Manifestation of Bias: The Effect of the Personal Vote on the Representation of Women

February 2013

Melody Ellis Valdini


The “personal vote” is the proportion of a candidate’s support that comes from their own personal qualities, activities, qualifications, and record, rather than their party. As gender is a personal quality, an emphasis on this type of voting may impact women. This study found that the more bias citizens of a particular country have against women, the larger the negative impact the personal vote has on women. Personalizing elections has no effect on women in cultures with little negative stereotypes towards women, but in cultures with heavy bias, this leads to a great reduction in women’s electoral success. However, even when bias is low, there is no instance where personalizing elections has a positive impact on women.

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Policy Implications

In places that aim to increase women’s representation, personalized elections should not be utilized. These elections are at best, neutral and, at worst, detrimental for women’s electoral success. Countries should aim to deemphasize the personal vote if women’s representation is a priority.

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