Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Grant, Joseph

Abstract

In this study, I examine how congressional candidates present gendered identities on their campaign websites. In my theory of candidate gendered identity, drawn from literature on presentation of the self and gender performativity, I argue that candidates construct their personal identities in relation to universally understood archetypes, which stand for ideal representations of real-world characters or roles. Through an in-depth content analysis of the biographical pages of 2010 U.S. House of Representatives candidate campaign websites, I examine how candidates construct and perform a range of gender-based archetypal roles in various electoral contexts. Specifically, I look at how such factors as electoral context, candidate partisan identification, and incumbency status (or challenger status) determine the range of archetypal roles a candidate might choose to perform. What I find is that candidate gender matters, but only for some candidates in some contexts. For many candidates, these factors have an interacting effect on the manner in which a candidate presents his or her gender-based identity. This study contributes to our current understanding of how political candidates behave and present themselves in their political campaigns. In their efforts to connect with and gain the trust of potential voters, candidates present their personal identities through the performances of familiar archetypes with which those voters can easily identify.

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