Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

Major Advisor

Jaclyn J. Kettler, Ph.D.


Jeffrey Lyons, Ph.D.


Stephen M. Utych, Ph.D.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.


Previous research has established that voters and political elites hold gendered stereotypes toward female candidates. Additionally, traditional family roles and gendered expectations are found to affect the self-confidence of women and their political ambition. However, little is known about how potential challengers perceive women as candidates. To fill this gap, I examine whether the presence of a woman in a primary election influences the entry of prospective candidates. Are women perceived to be more vulnerable candidates, thus attracting more competition in primary elections?

To answer this, I estimate a negative binomial regression with primary election data for the U.S. House of Representatives from 2002-2012. The results confirm previous findings that women face more primary competition, especially Republican women. However, Democratic incumbents and women who fundraise large amounts of money deter challengers from entering the primary election, suggesting they are viewed as stronger candidates, thus dissuading potential candidates from entering the race. To further examine these results I estimate the propensity score of congressional districts and match a random sample of my population to compare candidate-filing dates. The results suggest women strategically enter a race when there are fewer candidates. Furthermore, I find evidence that challengers are more likely to enter a primary election after a woman declares candidacy.