Representation from Below: How Women's Grassroots Party Activism Promotes Equal Political Participation

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Abstract

Extensive research investigates the impact of descriptive representation on women's political participation; yet, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. This article develops a novel theory of descriptive representation, arguing that women politicians mobilize women's political participation by recruiting women as grassroots party activists. Evidence from a citizen survey and the natural experiment of gender quotas in India confirm that women politicians are more likely to recruit women party activists, and citizens report greater contact with them in reserved constituencies during elections. Furthermore, with women party activists at the helm, electoral campaigns are more likely to contact women, and activist contact is positively associated with political knowledge and participation. Evidence from representative surveys of politicians and party activists and fieldwork in campaigns, further support the theory. The findings highlight the pivotal role of women's party activism in shaping women's political behavior, especially in contexts with pervasive clientelism and persistent gender unequal norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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