Quantcast
Connect with us

The Democrats are running more female veterans for office than ever before – but can they win?

Published

on

It’s not often that a political unknown’s campaign ad goes viral. But in 2018, M.J. Hegar (TX-13) burst onto the scene with “Doors,” a provocative campaign announcement video that placed her military experience and leadership ability front and center.

M.J. Hegar’s ‘Doors’ video.

Hegar was among a record-setting 14 female veterans running for Congress in 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT

Though it is still early, the 2020 election cycle is shaping up to be another record-breaking year. The progressive PAC VoteVets has already endorsed three female veteran challengers, and five incumbents are expected to run for reelection.

This upward trend is likely to continue. Syracuse University has opened a training program for veterans interested in running for office, and veterans currently serving have developed a fund to support women with security backgrounds running for office. Democrats have begun explicitly recruiting veteran women to run for Congress, hoping to capitalize on their service and military experience.

But are veteran women more likely to win? We wondered whether military service might allow women running for office to overcome concerns about their national security chops, without sacrificing voters’ positive perceptions of women’s ability to handle areas like health care.

Vote choices

Voters typically use stereotypical thinking to simplify their choices. They use attributes of the candidate, such as gender or profession, to judge a candidate’s suitability to hold office, as well as the candidate’s policy stance.

For veterans of either sex, stereotypical thinking can be beneficial. Veterans are often perceived as placing national interest over personal gain, being of good character and having practical knowledge about national security affairs. American voters strongly value national security, so it is unsurprising that survey research finds voters are more likely to support candidates viewed as best able to handle security affairs.

ADVERTISEMENT

For women candidates, stereotypical thinking is a mixed blessing. Women are often perceived as well-equipped to handle issues such as education, health care and poverty.

But stereotypes also promote the belief that women are emotional, irrational and weak. Women are often thought unfit to handle national security threats and the military. This can impede their election.

However, survey research finds that women with experience in national security can overcome stereotypical beliefs that they are unsuited to handle national security threats.

ADVERTISEMENT

Our research

In a study presented at the Inter-University Symposium on Armed Forces and Society on Nov. 9, we analyzed elections from five U.S. House election cycles between 2010 and 2018.

Our analysis indicates that veteran women, on average, do not garner more votes than nonveteran women of the same party. That’s unsurprising, given that veterans generally do not seem to do better at the polls than nonveterans in general elections. Our result echoes earlier studies that focused on male veterans only.

ADVERTISEMENT

On average, across the five elections, women veterans performed no better than nonveterans, regardless of gender. But the 2018 cycle showed a different pattern. Democratic female veterans on the ticket significantly outperformed their Democratic male veteran counterparts in their races.

We counted a dozen women with military biographies who ran as challengers in the 2018 midterm House races, ten of them Democrats. Three of these Democrats won their races, and several of the losses were close contests. Democratic women such as M. J. Hegar and Amy McGrath lost in narrow races in solidly red districts.

Democratic women veterans gained nearly half a percent more of the vote on average, as compared to their male veteran counterparts. When we controlled for factors that also drive vote choice, such as incumbency, Democratic women veterans’ lead over male veterans increased to more than 2%.

ADVERTISEMENT

This suggests to us that women veterans running as Democrats may benefit from positive perceptions of veterans as more knowledgeable in national security, as well as positive perceptions of women’s strength in domestic issues.

Kim Olson’s June ad.

Female veterans

Our analysis is preliminary.

At this stage, our model does not allow us to rule out the possibility that our results are driven by veterans running in districts where it’s harder for them to win.

Our results, which indicate that veterans of both genders running as Democrats get a lower share of votes, may be a product of the party recruiting veterans to run in long-shot districts, coupled with the veterans’ own heightened willingness to take on such challenges.

ADVERTISEMENT

Military life is notoriously challenging for all members, but more so for women who live and work in a male-dominated domain. Veteran women may relish the challenge of succeeding where women are often expected to fail.

As candidates, women veterans bring a competitive and confident spirit to the campaign trail. Amy McGrath’s (KY-6) initial advertisements highlighted the challenge she overcame in her military career and how these challenges were heightened by perceptions that women did not belong in combat.

Kim Olson’s ad announcing her bid for the TX-24 shows her walking the flight line in a bomber jacket, recounting the battles that earned her the nickname Colonel Marvel.

What’s more, the Democratic Party clearly sees an advantage in recruiting veterans to run for office. The number of women with military service running for office has increased, especially in 2018, and they are running in more competitive districts with a better shot at winning.

ADVERTISEMENT

As this trend continues, researchers will be better able to determine how the military service impacts of women from both parties impacts their candidacies and their service in office.

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

Theresa Schroeder Hageman, Visiting Assistant Professor, Ohio Northern University; Jeremy Teigen, Professor of Political Science, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Rebecca Best, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Missouri-Kansas City

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Your guide to the 2020 Democrats: Who’s in, who’s out and WTF is going on anyway?

Published

on

With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, the 2020 Democratic presidential field is finally starting to achieve ... no, forget it. It's definitely not coherent and it's probably not permanent either; we may well see more dropouts and late entries. But with the departure of Sen. Kamala Harris (and the earlier departures of a bunch of guys whose names you don't remember), the field now has a recognizable shape.

There's a frontrunner, who has led almost every national poll since last winter, allowing for a few outlier polls and a brief period around the end of the summer. There are three other leading contenders, two of whom have been near the top of the polls for months, while the third only recently emerged from the pack. There is a pack of dark-horse candidates, whose odds of being elected president now approach zero but who remain in the race for various reasons.  There are some with no shot at all. There are two fringe candidates, likely using this campaign to explore career options. And there's a pair of billionaires who hope to buy their way to the presidency by spending alarming amounts of money on campaign ads. That probably won't work — but you might have heard the same thing about another billionaire in that other party, a few years back.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Ronny Jackson, former White House doctor and Trump VA nominee, running for Texas congressional seat

Published

on

Jackson is at least the 13th Republican to jump into the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon.

Ronny Jackson, the former White House doctor and President Donald Trump's onetime nominee to be secretary of veterans affairs, is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon.

With hours until the filing deadline, Jackson, a former Navy rear admiral, arrived at the Texas GOP headquarters in Austin on Monday afternoon to submit paperwork for the seat.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

WATCH LIVE: House Judiciary Committee holds second day of hearings on the impeachment of Donald Trump

Published

on

The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee takes up the impeachment of Donald Trump again on Monday morning, with lawmakers expected to hear evidence against the president that could lead to a Senate trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Monday's hearing will include opening arguments "made by Barry H. Berke for the committee Democrats and Stephen R. Castor for the Republicans. Daniel S. Goldman, the Democratic counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, will then present the evidence for impeachment, and Mr. Castor will present the evidence against it. Judiciary Committee members will then ask questions," reports the New York Times.

Continue Reading