Successfully Overcoming the “Double Bind”? A Mixed-Method Analysis of the Self-Presentation of Female Right-wing Populists on Instagram and the Impact on Voter Attitudes

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Abstract

The relationship between gender and leadership is an understudied aspect related to populism although female leaders of right-wing populist parties do not conform with the philosophy of populist “men’s parties.” This study builds on the stereotype content model that conceptualizes gender stereotypes on a competence and a warmth dimension. We examine a potential double bind for leading female right-wing populists between, on the one hand, the need to demonstrate competence to succeed politically and, on the other hand, to conform to gender stereotypes of female politicians. We use a mixed-method design comprising a content analysis of N = 724 Instagram posts of leading European male and female right-wing populists and an online experiment with N = 163 male and female adult participants. This allows us to analyze how leading female right-wing populists represent themselves in terms of warmth and competence in comparison to their male counterparts and how these strategies affect participants’ evaluations. The content analysis shows that female populists represent themselves as slightly colder but more competent than their male colleagues regarding their social roles and both warmer and more competent in their non-verbal behavior. The subsequent online experiment shows that the effects of these strategies on participants’ evaluation of right-wing populists’ warmth and competence do not differ between female and male politicians. This suggests that a greater emphasis on warm traits would not necessarily harm female populist leaders as they were not evaluated differently than their male colleagues in this respect. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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Bast, J., Oschatz, C., & Renner, A. M. (2021). Successfully Overcoming the “Double Bind”? A Mixed-Method Analysis of the Self-Presentation of Female Right-wing Populists on Instagram and the Impact on Voter Attitudes. Political Communication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2021.2007190

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