Political Science Senior Rachael Nowack Receives Randall Research Award

Randall Award logo

Political Science major Rachael Nowack has been chosen to receive the Randall Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award for her research on the role of gender in political campaigns. The Randall Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award Program recognizes and celebrates the best research activity conducted by undergraduate students at The University of Alabama. Award recipients are selected by a distinguished panel of UA research faculty and past winners of the Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award. The recipients and their nominators are recognized at a luncheon in their honor during The University of Alabama Honors Week.

The title of Rachael’s project is “Voters’ Perceptions of the Qualifications of Female Candidates” and is supervised by her faculty mentor, Dr. Nichole Bauer. Rachael will be presenting her research at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in April. This conference is one of the largest and most important political science conferences in the United States. The full abstract for the project is given below.

Voters’ Perceptions of the Qualifications of Female Candidates

Rachael Nowack

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nichole Bauer

Interest surrounding female candidates has grown over the past few decades as female candidates have increased their prominence in national politics. And, while record numbers of women are running for political office, progress toward equal representation for women and men is coming at a very slow pace. Women hold only 20% of the seats in Congress, 25% of the seats in state legislative, and, of course, a woman has yet to win a major party’s nomination for the presidency. This project examines the underlying sources of gender bias that may affect women’s political representation. Existing empirical research documents that female candidates are, in fact, more qualified than their male opponents (Fulton 2012, Lawless 2012). This project examines whether voters have a different, more stringent, set of expectations for female candidates than for male candidates—a dynamic unexamined in past research. To test this hypothesis, I will design and conduct an original survey experiment. This experiment will examine whether there are differences in how voters evaluate female and male candidates with the same set of qualifications, and whether there are partisan differences in how voters evaluate the qualifications of female candidates. I predict that voters want female candidates who have previously held elected office and who have advanced further in their non-political professional careers, but that voters do not hold these expectations for male candidates. Holding female candidates to a higher standard of qualification is a subtle form of gender bias that contributes to the underrepresentation of women in politics.