Title page for ETD etd-07072010-154205

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wrzenski, Rhonda
URN etd-07072010-154205
Title Probing the Finance Gap Theory: Does Gender Affect Campaign Contributions?
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Garand, James Committee Co-Chair
Hogan, Robert Committee Co-Chair
Bratton, Kathleen Committee Member
Clark, William Committee Member
Goidel, Robert Kirby Dean's Representative
  • state legislatures
  • campaign finance
Date of Defense 2010-06-23
Availability unrestricted
In our field, scholarly literature contends that women win a similar percentage of the vote and raise a similar amount of money as their male opponents when they campaign (Newman 1994; Burrell 1994; Seltzer et al. 1997; Dolan 2006; Darcy et al. 1994; Wilhite and Theilmann 1986; Burrell 1985; Uhlaner and Schlozman 1986; Welch et al. 1985). However, women are still underrepresented at all levels of government and this may be a function of biases in the campaign finance network that have gone largely undetected. Differences may be more readily apparent at the sub-national level and among particular classes of donors. Using descriptive and OLS regression analysis, I examine the differences between male and female state legislative candidates in total campaign receipts from various financiers, but more importantly I examine the subcategories of contributions from political parties, businesses, labor unions, and ideological interest groups. Although, there may be few differences between male and female candidates in total contributions, these differences may be expressed among particular types of donors. In addition, I analyze campaign contribution size and campaign self-finance in order to determine whether gender also factors into these aspects of the campaign process. Using data from 24 state legislatures and two electoral cycles (1997-1998 and 1999-2000) I explore these questions amongst incumbents, challengers and open seat candidates in both contested and uncontested races.

After conducting my analysis, I find gender is often a statistically significant predictor of the total amount of contributions received, as well as the percentage contributed to one’s own campaign, and the percentage received from small donors. However, I find that candidate status plays a mediating role in shaping campaign receipts. In short, in many cases, female incumbents raise less but female open seat contestants raise more. Also, I find that women tend to raise a larger portion of their campaign contributions from donors contributing $200 or less but that they also tend to contribute less to their own campaigns. In addition to gender effects, I also find that a host of other factors play a role in determining how much a candidate raises and contributes.

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