“When Women Run, Voters Will Follow (Sometimes): Examining the Mobilizing Effect of Female Candidates in the 2014 and 2018 Midterm Elections.”
In this paper, we examine whether women candidates are more likely to spur turnout in election years when gender-related issues are central to the national debate. We argue that having women on the ballot in a gendered electoral environment mobilizes specific groups of voters. Utilizing voter files in Pennsylvania and Washington for 2014 and the more gender focused 2018 election, we evaluate this potential mobilizing effect in both primary and general midterm elections. Our results show that both female and male voters were more likely to turn out in the 2018 midterm elections when a woman was on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives. In Pennsylvania, which tracks registrants’ party affiliation, Democrats, members of third parties, and independents were particularly impacted by the presence of a female candidate. Moreover, in both states, a woman on the ballot was especially important for young people, a group that is traditionally less engaged. Utilizing a difference-in-difference approach, we confirm these results are not due to the endogenous selection of where women choose to run. These findings demonstrate that the mobilizing effect of women candidates is dependent on political context.