The question of whether the media is at least partly to blame for women’s underrepresentation in politics has generated much debate. Though early studies found that male candidates received more total and better coverage than female candidates, recent studies suggest that the amount of coverage has stabilized. Gender bias in coverage, however, continues to plague women’s candidacies. Winning office does not end the effort to obtain fair media coverage; women officeholders, and not just candidates, strive for equitable press reporting.

Future Research Directions

More research is needed to determine whether and how media coverage differs—for both women candidates and women officeholders—across types of office, party, and race/ethnicity. New experimental studies can help determine how gendered media coverage affects voter evaluations of candidates. Multi-method investigative approaches, such as those of Heldman and her coauthors, that combine qualitative and quantitative analysis of media coverage, and both multi-candidate and in-depth, single candidate analysis, can provide a comprehensive picture of specific campaigns. And as technology changes and the political impacts of social media such as Twitter and Facebook continue to unfold, scholars will need to examine how women candidates are faring in the new media environment.

Heldman, Caroline, Carroll, Susan J., and Olson, Stephanie. “”She brought only a skirt”: Print Media Coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s Bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination.” Political Communication 22.3 (2005): 315-335.

Further Reading

image of report Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns
Erika Falk | 2010

Falk uses paired comparisons of male and female presidential candidates throughout U.S. history to study media coverage of campaigns. Her study of nine women's candidacies extends from the 1800s through the 2008 election, ending with Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Her analysis reveals the uphill battle of women presidential candidates due to the biased nature of media coverage, including recurring themes that women are not viable or competent to be president. Media coverage of Clinton showed improvement over that of past female candidates but many of the stereotypical coverage patterns persisted.

Image of report"Have You Come a Long Way, Baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008 Campaign Coverage" - Communication Studies
Diana B. Carlin and Kelly L. Winfrey | 2009

This article examines how sexist media coverage during the 2008 U.S presidential campaign of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin can potentially increase public skepticism about a woman's fitness to serve as President or Vice President of the United States. The media coverage of Clinton and Palin centered on common stereotypes of corporate women (e.g.., "sex object" "mother" "pet/cheerleader" and "iron maiden"). In moving forward, Cardin and Winfrey suggest that the media and the campaigns of female presidential candidates must attack sexism early to deter its negative influence. Moreover, scholars must educate the public about the prevailing gender stereotypes that took place during the 2008 Presidential campaign if the United States is ever to elect a female President or Vice President.