This isn't your issue : gender and social influence in the public sphere

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2023-08-11

Authors

White, Benjamin Tracy

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Abstract

Ideally, citizens who express their thoughts have an equal chance of being heard. In reality, social group identities affect our ability to influence others’ attitudes and behavior. Gender is one such identity, and scholars have long observed gendered differences in political expression and influence. This dissertation explores how gendered stereotypes around various political issues shape the influence that women and men can have on others when engaging with politics, and how this affects our own willingness to engage with politics. In chapter one, I discuss the origin of gendered issue stereotypes and form a pair of competing hypotheses about how these stereotypes shape a person’s social influence. I find that women have a modest but significant influence advantage over men when they engage with traditionally masculine issues like crime and the economy. In chapter two, I bring partisanship and race into the equation. I find that partisanship largely overshadows gendered issue stereotypes, but that neither race nor gender more clearly determines influence. In chapter three, I pivot to consider how the threat of gendered issue stereotypes might affect our willingness to engage with politics, and I find that the threat of gendered issue stereotypes depresses men’s political efficacy. Throughout the dissertation, I consider the effects of gendered issue stereotypes in the context of social media, and use primarily survey experiments to test my hypotheses. This dissertation encourages scholars to pay more attention to how gender interacts with politics for everyday people, not just candidates. And while a variety of work suggests that men have greater influence when discussing politics, this dissertation highlights that gender also matters when we engage with specific political issues. In all, gendered issue stereotypes have a meaningful impact on the political experiences of everyday people, and this dissertation offers a valuable first look at the consequences.

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