Degree Name

BA

Department

Communications

College

Fine Arts and Communications

Defense Date

2022-03-08

Publication Date

2022-03-16

First Faculty Advisor

Sarah M. Coyne

First Faculty Reader

Jessica Preece

Honors Coordinator

Clark Callahan

Keywords

political television, female political candidates, television media, elections, donations, political drama

Abstract

It’s no secret that women are extraordinarily underrepresented in government and misrepresented in media. To better understand the impact of fictional television media featuring a positive female leader on the public’s perception of the electability of women and on their willingness to support women's campaigns, this study aimed to measure participants’ voting choices after viewing a positive fictional female leader. 104 college-age participants viewed fifteen-minute segments taken from episodes of CBS’s political drama Madam Secretary featuring either a male president or a female Secretary of State as each navigated political challenges. The participants completed vignette election experiences between nonpartisan municipal candidates, a male and a female, to determine how participants would vote following the stimulus. They additionally rated each candidate on their "likability" and "competence” and were shown the profile of a "real" female candidate with the option to donate a portion of their compensation to the candidate’s campaign. The present study found no significant change in the electing of or in the positive rating of female candidates following the women-lead stimulus, nor did it find any significant change in donation to a woman’s campaign. The findings of this thesis encourage additional study under different conditions, especially with longer and more consistent exposure to the media, to investigate the potential prosocial impacts of television media portraying strong female characters.

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