Bold Tweets: Female Politicians Shed Classical Language Norms

11 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2018

Date Written: May 3, 2017


I examine the interaction between gender-based language norms and political success. I analyzed 50 tweets from each of 107 female and 109 male members of the U.S. congress using IBM’s Tone Analyzer. Contrary to the standard hypothesis that women are less forceful in their speech than men, I find that female politicians tweet with as or more confident and analytical tones than male congressmen (p < .0002), an effect not explained away by party affiliation or age. Additionally, these women are not overly agreeable in the sense of tweeting with vanilla joyful tones: women’s tones are at least as sad and no more joyful (p < .01) visa-vie men. Instead, joyfulness and agreeableness seem to have more to do with party affiliation and being in power (Democrats tweet with less joy than Republicans (p < .0005)). Finally, while women are actively encouraged by Twitter users to be confident (p < .0005), this encouragement is less strong than what men receive (p ≈ .05). This data suggests that female politicians, in attaining their positions, have shed much of the gendered language norms that may exist; meanwhile, Twitter followers are becoming increasingly (but not yet completely) equally supportive of women’s powerful speech patterns.

Keywords: Gender, electability, congress, twitter, IBM Watson

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Proctor, Davey, Bold Tweets: Female Politicians Shed Classical Language Norms (May 3, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Davey Proctor (Contact Author)

Yale University, Students ( email )

United States

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