Defining Sexism: The Impact of Elite Cues on Conceptualizations and Labeling of Gender-Based Prejudice
Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Hostile sexist attitudes, labeling of sexual harassment, and support for the #MeToo movement vary significantly by partisanship and political ideology (Cassese, Barnes, and Holman 2018; Warren, Schneider, and Gothreau working paper; Conroy 2019). But why do we see such discrepancies in how Republicans and Democrats recognize and perceive sexism? Past literature has shown the impact of partisan elites in shaping mass attitudes within the electorate (Druckman, Peterson, and Slothuus 2013; Zaller 1992). Could elites, both partisan and nonpartisan, impact how individuals label and conceptualize everyday sexism? By fielding an original survey experiment to a nationally representative sample that includes a two-by-two factorial design with an additional control condition, this study explores whether two types of sexist messages from both ingroup partisan and nonpartisan elites can impact partisans’ labeling of sexist incidents, perceptions of the pervasiveness of sexism, and support for government policy to address systemic sexism. Results indicate that modern sexist messages from ingroup partisan elites only significantly decreased Democrats’ labeling of sexism, but a combination of both partisan and nonpartisan elite sexist messages impacted perceptions of pervasiveness of sexism among all partisans. Policy support did not significantly change after exposure to partisan or nonpartisan sexist cues. These findings show the influence that both partisan and nonpartisan elites can have on how the public understands sexism, especially as gender-based issues continue to polarize within the mass electorate.
Davis, Leslie, "Defining Sexism: The Impact of Elite Cues on Conceptualizations and Labeling of Gender-Based Prejudice" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1653.
Available for download on Sunday, May 14, 2023