The compassion strategy: Race and the gender gap in campaign 2000

Vincent L. Hutchings, Nicholas A. Valentino, Tasha S. Philpot, Ismail K. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Recent studies have shown that social "compassion" issues, and not those directly linked to women's interests, seem to drive the gender gap in presidential vote choice. Some of these compassion issues are associated with the plight of racial minorities in the media and in the minds of average citizens. Drawing on theories of gender role socialization, we predict that traditional partisan stands on racial issues may help to explain the gender gap. Specifically, we hypothesize that the gap emerges because men and women react differently to cues about how compassionate candidates are toward vulnerable social groups. In one experiment, we manipulate news information regarding George W. Bush's commitment to blacks versus women. The gender gap is maximized when Bush takes the traditional Republican stance, while it is reduced significantly when Bush espouses a more moderate position. The gender gap is unaffected by variation in the position that Bush takes on women's issues. In another experiment, we also find that the gender gap emerges when traditional partisan appeals are racialized. Finally, exposure to the 2000 Republican National Convention, with its message of racial inclusion, boosted evaluations of Bush among women but not men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-541
Number of pages30
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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