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How Republican Women Are Losing Out in the Polarization of Politics

As both of our political parties move to the ideological extremes, Republican women, who, unlike their Democratic counterparts, tend to be more moderate than the men in their party, are being left behind.
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(Photo: halimqd/Shutterstock)

(Photo: halimqd/Shutterstock)

There are more women in political office than ever before, but the United States is not on the forefront of this change. In 2013, the U.S. Congress was 18 percent female, which, internationally, places us in the middle of the pack.

The Democrats can boast better numbers than the Republicans, but it wasn’t always this way. At the Scholars Strategy Network, sociologist Danielle Thomsen observes that the Democratic party (green and blue) has increased female representation much quicker than the Republicans (red and purple), but only since the 1980s or so.


(Graph: Center for American Women and Politics)

Thomsen argues that part of the reason for this difference has to do with increasing polarization in politics. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have become more ideologically extreme, but this has hurt the recruitment of Republican women more than Democratic ones. This is because Republican women tend to be more moderate, on average, than Republican men. Since there is less room for moderation in the party, the selection process favors more conservative politicians. Among that group, there are very few women.

This hasn’t hurt the Democrats as much, since Democratic women are not more likely than Democratic men to hold moderate views. The opposite, in fact, may be true, increasing the rate at which women may be picked up and supported by the party.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “How Republican Women Lose Out in the Polarization of Politics.”