Articles

Whither Republican Women: The Growing Partisan Gap among Women in Congress

Laurel Elder, Hartwick College

Abstract

While the 2006 elections produced important gains for women's representation and power in Congress, they also exacerbated a troubling trend in American politics, the growing partisan gap. Twenty years ago, women in Congress were equally likely to be Republicans or Democrats. Today, Republican women form slightly less than 29 percent of the women in Congress. The partisan gap among women in Congress is a fairly recent, but quickly growing phenomenon in American politics, and one that has significant and disturbing implications for the descriptive and substantive representation of women, as well as the image, functioning, and policies of the major parties. This paper examines the composition of Congress and state legislatures over time and finds that several developments in American politics have contributed to the emergence and growth of the gap: a growing partisan imbalance in the congressional pipeline, the regional realignment of the parties, and the comparatively bigger gains made by non-white women in obtaining congressional seats. The paper concludes by assessing the consequences of the partisan gap and predicting that the gendering of the parties-in-government will only intensify in the wake of the 2008 elections and beyond.

Suggested Citation

Laurel Elder. "Whither Republican Women: The Growing Partisan Gap among Women in Congress" The Forum 6.1 (2009).

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