Date Approved

2021

Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Jeffrey L. Bernstein

Second Advisor

David Klein

Abstract

In this time of political uncertainty and shifting cultural norms, it has become challenging to rely upon our preconceived notions of what makes a good political candidate. This research was conducted for the purpose of deepening our understanding of the relationship between politics and the nonverbal communication of gender norms, and to shed light on how a candidate's gender presentation influences voters. Through examining the ways in which political candidates conform to or deviate from gender norms in their physical appearance, we begin to discover the impact of non-conformity on voters’ evaluations of candidates. In this study, respondents were shown one of four variants of a hypothetical candidate—one conforming and one non-conforming male and female—and evaluated the candidate in a number of areas. Results show that masculinity tends to be favored over femininity, while conformity is not always favored over nonconformity. These results, in total, carry implications for public tolerance in both politics and society at large, and build upon our understanding of the ways in which voters make political decisions, as well as provide insight into how conforming to or deviating from social norms affect the thought processes of the average person when it comes to evaluating political candidates.

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