The Journal of Politics


Testing the Double Standard for Candidate Emotionality: Voter Reactions to the Tears and Anger of Male and Female Politicians

Deborah Jordan Brooksa1

a1 Dartmouth College


Many have speculated that voters hold double standards for male and female political candidates that disadvantage women. One common assumption is that female candidates are penalized disproportionately for displays of crying and anger; however, the field lacks a theoretical or empirical foundation for examining this matter. The first half of this article establishes the theoretical basis for how emotional displays are likely to influence evaluations of female versus male candidates. Using a large-N, representative sample of U.S. adults, the second half tests these dynamics experimentally. The main finding is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, no double standard exists for emotionality overall: male and female candidates are similarly penalized for both anger and crying. There are, however, different responses to the tears of male and female candidates depending on whether the respondent is a man or woman.

(Online publication May 13 2011)


Deborah Jordan Brooks is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755.