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The Impact of Women in Congress$
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Debra L. Dodson

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198296744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0198296746.001.0001

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Difference, Negotiation, and Constraints in the Policy Process

Difference, Negotiation, and Constraints in the Policy Process

Difference, Negotiation, and Constraints in the Policy Process
The Impact of Women in Congress

Debra L. Dodson

Oxford University Press

The ratings of ten interest groups, along with party unity and presidential support scores, are analyzed to explore the broader evidence of change and stability in gender difference and women’s impact across the strikingly different environments of the 103rd and 104th Congresses. Although the results suggest that increased descriptive representation will enhance substantive representation of women, these findings of gender difference coexist with evidence that descriptive representation might not necessarily contribute to increased substantive representation of women. Gender differences narrowed in the 104th, primarily due to the influx of a new cohort of Republican women who were in some cases even more conservative than their male colleagues, but also due to ‘conversion’ effects, as veteran Republican women shifted rightward in an institutional environment where the cost of difference increased. With Democratic men on average being more feminist/liberal than Republican women on average, the question is raised whether substantive representation of women would be better served by increasing the proportional presence of Democrats (regardless of gender) or by increasing women’s presence regardless of party.

Keywords:   ideological change, substantive representation, descriptive representation, party unity, partisanship, ideology, interest group ratings, New Institutionalism, political environment

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