Female candidates find the road to public office is often strewn with hidden landmines thanks to voters' stereotypes. Case in point: Men are allowed to be mavericks, but women are expected to toe the party line.
In a study conducted during the 2010 mid-terms, 355 undergraduates evaluated a fictitious congressional candidate. Some were told that "Barbara Melton" or "Joseph Sutton" expressed total agreement with their party's position on four major issues; others learned the candidate expressed a divergent view.
"A female candidate who disagreed with her party on two issues showed bigger declines in evaluations of her competence, her sincerity, her leadership, and in voting intentions," Emily Vraga of George Mason University reports in the journal Politics & Policy. While the ratings of "Joseph Sutton" dropped only slightly after his apostasies were revealed, those of "Barbara Melton" went down 9 to 14 percentage points.
Sarah Palin notwithstanding, "going rogue" is a luxury reserved for men.