Women making strides in public office

June 20, 2011 at 7:31 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 20 (UPI) -- Female gubernatorial candidates states face barriers but their gender may have become a "strategic asset" in their appeal to U.S. voters, a study has found.

A study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, released Monday, indicated 2010 was a turning point showing gains for women running in gubernatorial campaigns.

"Women candidates in 2010 ran on a more level playing field than in past years," said BLFF founder and President Barbara Lee. "Women still faced barriers, but they also showed distinct advantages over their male competitors. Now more than ever, gender may be a strategic asset in women's campaigns for executive office."

After partisanship, the research indicated, likeability was the determining factor in votes for women, followed by gender-neutral qualities such as problem-solving, prioritizing and showing strength. In previous elections, voters looked for candidate traits stereotypically thought of as male such as toughness.

Other areas in which women posted gains during the 2010 gubernatorial elections were in areas of credibility and honesty and ethics, the study said.

Gender remained a barrier when voters believed a female candidate was engaged in negative campaigning.

"Critiquing an opponent's record, priorities, or decisions without being seen as negative is an extraordinary challenge for women candidates and their campaign teams," said Mary Hughes, president of Hughes & Company, a California-based Democratic research firm and BLFF research partner. "But it remains a critical strategy to show the contrast between candidates."

The report did not provide data on study methodology.

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