DP9547 Men Vote in Mars, Women Vote in Venus: A Survey Experiment in the Field

Author(s): Vincenzo Galasso, Tommaso Nannicini
Publication Date: July 2013
Keyword(s): competitive persuasion, gender differences, political campaigns
JEL(s): D72, J16, M37
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: http://www.cepr.org/pubs/dps/DP9547

This paper investigates the differential response of male and female voters to competitive persuasion in political campaigns. During the 2011 municipal elections in Milan, a sample of eligible voters was randomly divided into three groups. Two were exposed to the same incumbentís campaign but to different opponentís campaigns, with either a positive or a negative tone. The thirdócontrológroup received no electoral information. The campaigns were administered online and consisted of a bundle of advertising tools (videos, texts, slogans). Stark gender differences emerge. Negative advertising increases menís turnout, but has no effect on women. Females, however, vote more for the opponent and less for the incumbent when they are exposed to the opponentís positive campaign. Exactly the opposite occurs for males. Additional tests show that our results are not driven by gender identification with the candidate, ideology, or other voterís observable attributes. Effective strategies of persuasive communication should thus take gender into account. Our results may also help to reconcile the conflicting evidence on the effect of negative vs. positive advertising, as the average impact may wash out when aggregated across gender.