Politics & Gender

Research Article

Unexpected Winners: The Significance of an Open-List System on Women's Representation in Poland

Sheri Kunovicha1

a1 Southern Methodist University


Scholars have debated the impact of open-list systems on women's representation. While some argue that open lists provide a unique opportunity for voters to overcome parties' bias against women, others argue that they create additional barriers. I examine several mechanisms that impact women's representation within Poland's open-list system. Results suggest that 1) voters shift women's original list placements positively across all parties over three elections; 2) these shifts are more pronounced when women's overall presence on the list and list placement are lower, regardless of party; and 3) positive shifts often result in the election of substantially more women than would have been expected. These findings add to our understanding of open-list systems by documenting variability in the effects of preferential voting across time and party in a postcommunist context. In addition, the unexpected positive effects of preferential voting in Poland add to a growing body of evidence that voters and parties on the center and right support female candidates at rates approaching or similar to parties on the left.

Sheri Kunovich is Associate Professor of Sociology at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX: kunovich@smu.edu


I would like to thank Robert M. Kunovich, Goldie Shabad, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski, Joshua Dubrow, and Anne Lincoln for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. This research was supported by a Ford Research Fellowship through Southern Methodist University.