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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Edited By Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter Twelve: The Gender Gap in Presidential Vote Preference


← 224 | 225 → CHAPTER TWELVE


Although many predictors of vote preference are seemingly independent from campaign communication, elections are won by swaying voter margins through targeted messages to specific groups, or audiences, so that individuals in those groups will to go to the polls and cast their ballots a particular way. People possess different social identities, some more salient to the individuals than others. News media and candidate discourse can prime those identities influencing voting decisions. News outlets devote notable proportions of their campaign coverage trying to reveal candidate strategies and offer armchair speculation as to whether or not the strategies will in fact work on specific groups. Women are often one such group about whom the media offer their projections, some of which are based on evidence whereas others are based on gender stereotypes. Ultimately, by treating women as the malleable group and failing to acknowledge how other demographics interact with sex when it comes to vote decisions, the media cultivate gender stereotypes and overlook subpopulations that do not conform to media’s gender predictions.

The purpose of this chapter is to explain the role that gender played in the 2012 presidential election and to provide a portrait of how gender was associated with the presidential vote. First, I will discuss why gender is believed to matter in political campaigns and what gender gaps exist. Second, the dominant gender frames put forth by the presidential campaigns and their parties will be described. ← 225...

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