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Votes for Women: Electoral Systems and Support for Female Candidates

January 2017

Sona N. Golder, Laura B. Stephenson, Karine Van der Straeten, André Blais, Damien Bol, Philipp Harfst, Jean-François Laslier


This article analyzes how different types of electoral rules impact support for female candidates, under proportional representation systems. The researchers found that voters are more likely to vote for women when open party lists are used, rather than closed ones. They also found that having more women on a party list does not hurt parties and, in fact, may even help them in some cases. They found a lack of bias against women from both male and female voters, though women were especially likely to choose female candidates.

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Policy Implications

In countries with proportional representation systems of voting, open party lists should be used if they seek to increase representation for women. When voters have a choice of candidates, they do not discriminate against women. However, party leaders often do not place women in favorable positions on party lists, placing them at a disadvantage in closed list systems.

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