Degree Name



Political Science


Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

J. Quin Monson

First Faculty Reader

Lisa Argyle

Honors Coordinator

Darin Self


Republican Party, Elections, Evangelical Protestants, State Legislatures, Women


While much has been said about both the gender gap and partisan gender gap in representation in Congress and state legislatures, most of this research ignores the critical role of religion as an explanatory variable. I propose a new theory where the presence of a high proportion of evangelical Protestants in the electorate explains both the gender gap in representation that has long existed as well as the emergence of a partisan gap among women in state legislatures. As evangelical Protestants became politicized and flocked to the Republican Party in the 1980s and 1990s, more Democratic women were elected and fewer Republican women even made it through Republican primaries increasingly dominated by religiously conservative voters. The descriptive and substantive representation of women and other groups has a positive impact on the lives of women and minorities, and thus we need to elect more women and to do so we need to understand the roadblocks that are preventing that from happening. This thesis contributes to the current research on gender, representation, and elections by proposing a theory at the cross-section of literature on elections, party culture, and religion within the Republican Party. My analysis replicates an existing model of why fewer women are elected but then alters the model to appropriately account for evangelical Protestants. I also estimate the models over time to show the emergence of the partisan gender gap. Through my analysis, I conclude that not only is correctly measuring religion important, but the presence of evangelical Protestants does have a negative impact on the number of women in state legislatures.