All Male Panels? Representation and Democratic Legitimacy

Amanda Clayton, Diana O'Brien, Jennifer Piscopo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What does women’s presence in political decision-making bodies signal to citizens? Do these signals differ based on the body’s policy decisions? And do women and men respond to women’s presence similarly? Though scholars have demonstrated the substantive and symbolic benefits of women’s representation, little work has examined how women’s presence affects citizens’ perceptions of democratic legitimacy.We test the relationship between representation and legitimacy beliefs through survey experiments on a nationally representative sample of U.S. citizens. First, we find that women’s equal presence legitimizes decisions that go against women’s interests. We show suggestive evidence that this effect is particularly pronounced among men, who tend to hold less certain views on women’s rights. Second, across decision outcomes and issue areas, women’s equal presence legitimizes decision-making processes and confers institutional trust and acquiescence. These findings add new theoretical insights into how, when, and for whom inclusive representation increases perceptions of democratic legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113
Number of pages129
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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