Beyond the Party Push: Gender Differences in Voters’ Persuasion

Number: 158
Year: 2024
Author(s): Giulia Savio

Despite the efforts to reduce gender gaps, women are still under-represented among politicians. This paper suggests a new channel to explain female disadvantage in electoral success related to politicians’ ability to extend their electorate and attract voters from opponent parties. I rely on Swiss elections exploiting several features of this setting. This electoral system is based on open lists (voters can select candidates within their favorite party), and it allows cross-voting (voters can also select candidates from lists other than their favorite). Furthermore, electoral registers report the amount of preference votes collected by each politician separately by the voter’s favorite party. I show that individual preference votes are an essential driver of gender differences in candidates ’success. Interestingly, while no gender gap emerges in preferences cast by party supporters, male politicians collect more preference votes through cross-voting than females, i.e. they are more successful in persuading voters from competing parties. Motivated by several mechanisms, these new results bring salient policy implications concerning the impact of electoral systems on female representation.

Keywords: gender gap, preference votes, open lists, cross-voting, panachage, elections