Representation from below: How women’s grassroots party activism promotes equal political participation
78 Pages Posted: 1 May 2020 Last revised: 27 Feb 2023
Date Written: April 5, 2019
A vast scholarship examines whether descriptive representation increases women's political participation. However, how these effects occur is not fully understood. This paper develops a novel theory of descriptive representation, arguing that women politicians increase women's political participation by recruiting women as grassroots party activists. Evidence from primary citizen survey and the natural experiment of gender quotas in India indicates that women politicians are more likely to recruit women party activists and citizens report greater contact with them in reserved constituencies. The results show that, with women party activists at the helm, ground campaigns are more likely to canvass women, and that receiving partisan contact is positively associated with political knowledge and participation. Evidence from representative politician and party activist surveys, and fieldwork in ground campaigns strengthens support for the theory. The findings illuminate how descriptive representation advances equal participation in settings with restrictive gender norms.
Keywords: Female political participation, symbolic effects, mobilization
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