STUDY: Conservative women are not identity politics fans

A new study finds that conservative women in college are less likely to support the use of identity politics in presidential campaigns.

Providence College psychology professor Saaid Mendoza spearheaded the study, entitled “Not ‘With Her’: How Gendered Political Slogans Affect Conservative Women’s Perceptions of Female Leaders” and published in the recent issue of Sex Roles

Mendoza says that his interest in political slogans developed while he tracked the 2016 presidential election. He tells Campus Reform that he was surprised that then-candidate Hillary Clinton was not “polling nearly as well with women as she might expect.” 

And perhaps conservative women could help explain why. 

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It is understandable that conservatives wouldn’t want to vote for the Democratic front-runner. But Clinton’s excessive use of identity politics during her campaign may have had an especially negative impact on her reception, Mendoza found. 

To study this, Mendoza recruited 140 female college students. Each student was randomly assigned to watch one of three Clinton campaign advertisements: one with no slogan, one featuring “I’m with her,” a third with the catchphrase “Stronger Together.” 

The results were striking, though not necessarily unexpected. Clinton’s approval rating was highest among female liberals who watched the “I’m with her” campaign ad. But for conservatives, watching the “I’m with her” ad reduced support by nearly 30 percent. 

So while the identity politics ad helped Clinton among liberals, it hurt her approval rating among women who lean conservative. And while the campaign slogan was just one aspect of Clinton’s campaign, Mendoza argues that it still damaged Clinton’s chances at getting elected.

“Being exposed to the gendered campaign slogan for less than 10 seconds had a significant effect on how conservative women viewed Clinton and her presidential campaign,” Mendoza told Campus Reform

“In that respect, the election results may appear to be less shocking, since Clinton’s strategy to win over the conservative female vote through gendered appeals may have been grounded in false ideological assumptions,” he added. 

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In his conclusion, Mendoza stressed that more research should be done to see if his findings can be replicated. He also admits his sample size is small, especially considering only about 30 percent, or 41 students, were conservative. 

But in any case, he suspects that Clinton’s strategy ultimately “backfired.” Many conservative women simply weren’t buying it, along with political moderates as well. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen