Dr. Kerri Milita presented her research “Not So Great Expectations: Why Ambiguous Position-Taking Benefits Women Candidates” at a Department of Politics and Government brown bag on Friday February 26. Milita’s research examined whether women running for office are penalized more or less than men for taking ambiguous issue positions during campaigns.

Using a survey experiment, Milita and her colleagues find the male candidates are rarely, if ever, advantaged from taking an ambiguous issue position, whereas female candidates appear to benefit from speaking unclearly on key issues. However, there is some evidence that this differential exists because women are less likely (than men) to be perceived as policy experts. This research has important implications for how we think about the role of gender on the campaign trail and highlights the importance of understanding candidate rhetoric.