Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 2019


Sandberg, M. (2019). The Effect of Threat on Preferences for Male Versus Female Candidates. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Marley Sandberg 2019.


In the United States, there is a continuing question of why the political bodies of the government, (i.e. the Senate and the House of Representatives) lack descriptive representation for women (Paxton, Kunovich & Hughes, 2007). We have seen a growing body of research that tries to explain this lack of female politicians. While many explanations have been found that partially explain this, such as incumbent status favoring men, and fewer political role models for women (Paxton, Kunovich & Hughes, 2007), there still has been no definitive answer. There is reason to believe that threat may play a role in a lack of female political leaders, as threat has been found to create powerful shifts in political attitudes in individuals that may make them prefer male candidates over female candidates (Jost & Thórisdóttir, 2011). This study examines the relationship between threat and preferences, voting intentions, and stereotypes of male versus female candidates with gendered descriptions. In order to examine this question, we manipulated threat using mortality salience (used in previous Terror Management Theory studies, e.g., Rosenblatt, Greenberg, Solomon, Pyszczynski, & Lyon, 1989) and had participants answer questions regarding either a male or female candidate with a gendered description (Huddy & Terkildsen, 1993). We find in this study that threat does not have an impact on preferences, voting intention, or perception of gendered traits. This research does, however, demonstrate the need for further research regarding threat and candidate gender.