The Gender Gap and its Effect on Presidential Campaigns and Political Ads

Posted: 1 Apr 2010

See all articles by Tina Ruggeiro

Tina Ruggeiro

Dominican University of California

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 30, 2009


In America women not only vote differently than men but they also vote in larger numbers (Poggione). In 2000, 56 % of women turned out while only 53% of men voted. This translated to 8 million more women in the electorate (Schaffner, 804). Women tend to vote for the candidate who talks about issues that they consider to be most important including, healthcare, education, welfare, elderly, and war and peace issues. Research has shown that this is true regardless of party and ideology (Poggione). The gender gap is the idea that women are more liberal than men and tend to care about different issues. The issues like healthcare, education, welfare, elderly and war and peace are referred to as "women's issues." Women place more of an emphasis on issues when they vote than on party and ideology. Some scholars have found that gender is the largest contributing factor that determines how one will vote. Others say that there are stronger factors such as socioeconomic status, party affiliation, the region in which one resides, and a person’s religious affiliation that determine how a woman will vote. The questions driving this paper are: do candidates develop strategies that appeal specifically to women in order to garner votes? Will the candidate who includes more of these issues in his or her campaign message win the female vote? To carry out my research I coded political ads from the 2008 general election campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain to determine which candidate had more ads focused on issues that have been determined to attract women. I anticipated that the presidential candidate who spoke to women’s issues most during the campaign would maximize his or her chances of securing the female vote at election time. Ultimately this study will assess candidate behavior through political ads to determine whether or not targeting women’s issues in a campaign message helps a candidate win the female vote.

Suggested Citation

Ruggeiro, Tina, The Gender Gap and its Effect on Presidential Campaigns and Political Ads (April 30, 2009). Available at SSRN:

Tina Ruggeiro (Contact Author)

Dominican University of California ( email )

United States

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