The Identity of Political Support: Personal Constituents, Gender, and Political Ambition

By: Hayley Sullivan '11

Advising Faculty: MaryAnne Borrelli

I argue that the role of the personal constituency of a legislator will vary with the gender in the legislator's identity. This is importnt, because if the legislator's gender impacts the support provided by his or her personal constituents, then this prevents equal access to office in a democratic republic. 

I applied intersectional analysis to also address the other facets of a legislator's identity, which include race, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. 

In order to test my hypothesis, I examined four white Connecticut state legislators from a similar region and party and with comparable credentials of age, race, and education, but with different work experience, marital status and genders. 

I interviewed twenty-two personal constituents of the legislators in order to make multiple contacts with each network. 

My results reveal that white women legislators receive less material support from their personal constituents than white men legislators do. This means that they receive less aid during their campaign and have to spend more hours campaigning. 

Consequently, it is more difficult for white women legislators to run for reelection and higher office. Uneven candidate recruitment results in patterned exclusion. 

I conclude with a series of recommendations for white women legislative candidates, as well as for legislative candidates of color and gay and lesbian candidates. 

This honors thesis may be read in its entirety at Digital Commons at Connecticut College:

Related Fields: Government, International Relations