Staying Power: Strategies for Women Incumbents Key Findings

BLFF Team | Oct 5, 2021


As the 2022 election cycle approaches, women incumbents are announcing their plans to run for reelection. Recently the Barbara Lee Family Foundation released our latest research Staying Power: Strategies for Women Incumbents, a reference guide highlighting methods for success for women incumbents. Check out some of the key findings from the research below:


  1. Voters recognize that women and women of color are held to a different and higher standard when they run for office.

Data from the focus groups conducted for this research guide conclude that many people believe that women in political positions are judged harsher than their male counterparts. For example, if a woman politician and a man politician make the same decision on a political issue, many voters will judge the woman more harshly for the position.


  1. Women incumbents must show, not tell.

According to Staying Power, voters respond positively when incumbents speak about their accomplishments. We have seen repeatedly in our research that voters do not assume women are qualified for political positions when they run for office. On the contrary, past research shows that a majority of people assume that men are qualified for political positions when they run for office.


  1. Voter preferences for how a woman communicates her record can vary based on her race.

This research shows that voters do not respond the same way to all women candidates +discussing their records. This research shows that voters respond most to Black and white women emphasizing what they accomplished in their first term, with solo credit being more important than sharing credit with their teams and coalitions. An Asian American woman can speak effectively to voters by emphasizing what she and her team accomplished while in office. Latina women should also emphasize solo credit like Black and white women.


  1. If a woman incumbent decides to respond to criticism, voters want a timely and effective reply.

Voters want a strong response from a woman when she’s faced with criticism on the campaign trail. When an attack against her record happens, voters want a woman incumbent to address the situation right away while also highlighting her past accomplishments.


  1. A woman’s response to attacks on her record can maintain and impact her likeability and effectiveness.

If a woman incumbent responds to an attack in a timely and strong manner, she can boost her perceived likeability and effectiveness. This is important because previous BLFF research shows that likeability is a non-negotiable for women candidates. Voters will not support a woman if they do not like her, but they will vote for a man they do not like.  According to Staying Power, the following actions by women incumbents help increase their likeability and effectiveness: centering on families and small businesses, focusing on what they have accomplished for everyday people, listening to residents about priorities for the state, and having the values of hard work and responsibility.


Read more about Staying Power here, and sign up to attend our briefing on this research tomorrow, October 6th, here.









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