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I’m Not Voting for Her: Polling Discrepancies and Female Candidates


Although there is a large literature on the predictive accuracy of pre-election polls, there is virtually no systematic research examining the role that a candidate’s gender plays in polling accuracy. This is a surprising omission given the precipitous growth of female candidates in recent years. Looking at Senate and Gubernatorial candidates from 1989 to 2008 (more than 200 elections in over 40 states), we analyze the accuracy of pre-election polls for almost the complete universe of female candidates and a matched sample of white male cases. We demonstrate that pre-election polls consistently underestimate support for female candidates when compared to white male candidates. Furthermore, our results indicate that this phenomenon—which we dub the Richards Effect, after Ann Richards of Texas—is more common in states which exhibit traits associated with culturally conservative views of gender issues.