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Amanda Bittner is Associate Professor & Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Political Science at Memorial University in Canada.Bittner studies public opinion and voting behavior, and her main research interests include the role of party leaders and candidates in the minds of voters; the role of gender in public opinion and voting; and issues of measurement in survey research, in both Canadian and Comparative contexts.
Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior
Gender and Politics
Representation and Electoral Systems
Research Methods & Research Design
Women And Elections
The growing number of women parliamentarians in this country, among others, has prompted scholars to explore political workplaces through a gendered lens. Are legislatures meeting the needs of these parliamentarians and are there barriers to participation? The authors of this article examine these questions with a particular focus on work-life balance and parenthood. While questions of work-life balance affect all parliamentarians, parents raising young children – for whom women have historically assumed greater responsibility – have particular demands on their time. The authors survey recent scholarly research on women and the political workplace and find that while state support for working families appears to be valued around the world, changes to institutions and policies that would facilitate women’s and mothers’ political work, and especially their political careers, have not kept pace. The authors conclude we must rethink the way we “do” politics in order to ensure that this unique workplace is accessible for individuals across all walks of life, and at all stages of family life.
We know how sex (rather than gender) structures political preferences, but researchers rarely take into account the salience or importance of gender identity at the individual level. The only similar variable for which salience is commonly taken seriously is partisanship, for which direction and importance or strength are both considered imperative for measurement and analysis. While some scholars have begun to look at factors that may influence intragroup differences, such as feminism (Conover, 1988), most existing research implicitly assumes gender salience is homogenous in the population. We argue that both the content of gender identity (that is, what specifically is gender identity, as opposed to sex) as well its salience should be incorporated into analyses of how gender structures political behaviour. For some, gender simply does not motivate behaviour, and the fact that salience moderates the impact of gender on behaviour requires researchers to model accordingly. Using original data from six provincial election studies, we examine a measure of gender identity salience and find that it clarifies our understanding of gender's impact on political attitudes.
The importance of sex and gender to political behavior is reflected in the volume of work examining gender gaps in public opinion and partisan choice. Despite their centrality, sex and gender are poorly measured in survey research. The principal problem is the conflation of gender with sex in survey research. Consequently, gender is typically treated as a dichotomy, with no response options for androgynous gender identities, or indeed degrees of identification with masculine or feminine identities. We compare a new measure of genuine gender identification with a conventional measure of biological sex to determine whether the practice of using sex as a proxy for gender is sound. Sex is a fair proxy for gender, but for about a quarter of our sample, it is not. Moreover, greater nuance is gained when analyses incorporate a finer-grained measure of gender than is possible by using biological sex as a substitute. We argue that this is simply the start to an important conversation and that more research is needed to ascertain how we might best measure “gender” in the future.
Does a candidate's pathway to parliament affect subsequent legislative roles and behavior? Party candidate nomination processes in Canada are very decentralized, with responsibility for candidate selection allocated to the local constituency associations. However, candidates may also secure a nomination by being “parachuted” into a constituency: appointed by the party leader as the candidate who will stand for the party in the general election. This practice is most common in the Liberal Party of Canada, and as such we study this party's candidates in the six most recent elections (between 1993 and 2008) in order to explore both (a) the characteristics of parachuted and locally nominated MPs; and (b) the legislative consequences of parachuting candidates into constituencies. We find that party leaders are using the power of appointment to recruit both star candidates and women into the House of Commons, but that appointed candidates from each of these groups serve very different roles in Parliament. We find a strong link between nomination method and subsequent legislative roles and activities: parachuted candidates are much more likely to serve in high-profile legislative positions while locally nominated candidates are more likely to engage in low-profile legislative activities. The process by which candidates come to stand for election, we argue, directly affects the nature of representation by Members of Parliament in the legislature, and has implications for the study of candidate nomination and legislative roles in parties in other democracies.
This paper examines the relationship between social group identity and the level of political information in explaining Canadians' issue attitudes and vote choices. Traditional accounts of Canadians' partisan political leanings have placed a great deal of emphasis on social group identity in explaining attitudes. However based on data from the Canadian Election Studies from 1988–2004, it is argued that both social group identity and information influence the nature of vote choice and public opinion in Canada. In fact, the level of voter information has two contradictory effects on the political attitudes of different social groups. In some cases voters' level of information reduces the role of social group identity in explaining attitudes and vote choices; information acts to bridge the differences between different social groups (for example Catholics/non-Catholics and urban/rural Canadians). In other cases, voters' level of information acts to amplify the importance of social group identity in predicting attitudes (for example women/men and religious/nonreligious). These findings suggest that not only is social group identity a less effective predictor of attitudes than has traditionally been thought but that there are also significant underlying differences between the so-called “old” and “new” cleavages in Canada when it comes to understanding their impact on political values.
Turnout in Canadian national elections declined sharply in the 1990s, especially among young voters. We argue that a prime cause is the parallel decline in electoral competitiveness. We demonstrate this by estimating an encompassing model of turnout, including indicators of party spatial location and riding-level competitiveness embedded in a setup that is sensitive to entering cohorts and the passage of time, broadly in the spirit of Franklin (2004a). Data come from the Canadian Election Studies from 1988 to 2004. In addition to its main conclusions, the analysis generates new questions, especially about how voters derive information about competitiveness and about the relative importance of voters' own reckonings and the strategic allocation of resources and effort by parties.
When women in politics interact with reporters, opponents, and constituents, they are forced to confront their parental status. If they have children, they are questioned about their competence in both their public and private lives. If they don’t, they face criticism for not understanding or relating to key policy domains. This “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum raises difficult questions about how politicians, voters, and the media navigate the intersection of gender, parental status, and politics. Mothers and Others brings together scholars researching political careers, party organization, political behaviour and representation, and public policy to discuss the role of parental status in political life. They look at three main areas of citizen engagement with the political system – parenthood and political careers, parenthood in the media, and parenthood and political behaviour – to argue that being a parent is a gendered political identity that influences how, why, and to what extent women (and men) engage with politics. The first major comparative analysis of the role of parenthood in politics, Mothers and Others makes important observations about what we know and what we still need to find out.
On May 2, 2011, as Canadians watched the federal election results roll in and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives achieve a majority, it appeared that we were witnessing a major shift in the political landscape. In reality, Canadian politics had been changing for quite some time. This volume provides the first account of the political upheavals of the past two decades and speculates on the future of the country’s national party system. By documenting how parties and voters responded to new challenges between 1993 and 2011, this book sheds light on one of the most tumultuous periods in Canadian political history. Parties, Elections, and the Future of Canadian Politics provides the first comprehensive account of political change in Canada over the past two decades, particularly during the 1993, 2004, and 2011 federal elections. Contributors explore the changing landscape from both historical and contemporary perspectives and speculate on the future of the national party system. They discuss how parties have evolved in response to new challenges, how elections are fought on different terms than those of the past, and how these developments and challenges have changed the way voters view political parties and elections. By doing so, they make a crucial contribution to our understanding of Canadian politics in the wake of a one of the most tumultuous periods in the country’s history.
Campaign organizers and the media appear to agree that voters' perceptions of party leaders have an important impact in elections: considerable effort is made to ensure that leaders look good, speak well, and that they are up in the polls. In contrast, the academic literature is much more divided. Some suggest that leaders play an important role in the vote calculus, while others argue that in comparison to other factors, perceptions of leaders have only a minimal impact. Platform or Personality? incorporates data from thirty-five election studies across seven countries with varying institutional environments, and takes both a broad and in-depth look at the role of leaders. A few noteworthy conclusions emerge. First, voters evaluate leaders' traits in terms of two main dimensions, character and competence. Second, voters perceive leaders within the framework of a partisan stereotype in which the party label of the leader imbues meaning; more specifically, leaders of Conservative parties are seen to be more competent while Left leaders are seen to have more character. Third, and most importantly, leaders matter: they affect voters' decisions and have a discernible effect on the distribution of votes in an election. Fourth, there are consistent differences in the perception of party leaders according to voters' level of political sophistication. While all voters evaluate party leaders and consider leaders in their vote calculus, the more sophisticated do so the most. This book argues that personality plays an important role in elections, and that in a healthy democracy, so it should.