Advantages for Republican Women Candidates on the Trail

Amanda Hunter | Feb 19, 2020


Record numbers of women have entered politics since 2016, but there is still an imbalance along party lines. This year, there are 105 Democratic women in Congress but only 22 Republican women. While Republican women clearly face some barriers on the campaign trail, there are also unique advantages.

Where do Republican women have an advantage?

According to Barbara Lee Family Foundation research, Republican women lead in a few key areas. First, they have the benefit of being seen as political outsiders, critical at this moment in time when being perceived as “different” can be helpful for women candidates.

Secondly, when in a head-to-head matchup against Democratic men, Republican women are also seen as more confident (crucial for women candidates) and honest. Voters put women on an “ethical pedestal,” expecting women to behave in a more honest and ethical manner than their male counterparts. While this double standard is unfair, it also underscores why being perceived as more honest is such an advantage for Republican women.

What policies do voters give Republican women an advantage on?

Traditionally, voters give Democratic candidates an advantage over Republicans when it comes to education and health care, and women candidates have an advantage over male candidates. Republican women are able to harness the advantage voters have historically given women candidates on those two issues and neutralize the disadvantages that come from their party affiliation.

In turn, being seen as strong on health care can help women be seen as strong on the economy, a traditionally difficult area for women. On the economy and tax issues, Republican women have an advantage over Democratic candidates. Given that the economy is a top priority for voters, especially Republican and Independent women voters, showcasing this strength can be especially important.

National security is historically a tough topic for women because of an outdated perception that women aren’t “tough enough” to be commander-in-chief. In BLFF’s research, Republican women perform as well as Democratic men on national security, meaning they overperform as women, but underperform as Republicans (Republican men are still seen as the most trustworthy).

While Republican women are currently underrepresented in government, that may not be for long. 243 Republican women candidates are likely to run for seats in the House and Senate in 2020, and the advantages above could help give Republican women an edge on the campaign trail.

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