Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Kiki Caruson

Keywords

European elections, female representation, gender quotas, politics, religiosity

Abstract

In this mixed methods study, I explore the reasons for the low level of women in elected office in Europe. I analyze the impact of three structural factors (number of years since women's suffrage was enacted, type of electoral system, and presence of legal gender quotas) and three attitudinal factors (level of gender equality, percentage of female professionals, and level of religiosity) on the percentage of women in national legislatures in each of the European countries. Specifically, I pose the following research question: Which structural and/or attitudinal factors are more influential for women's political representation in European countries?

In order to answer this question, I begin by performing ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analyses of the variables. My Europe-wide and Western Europe regression results indicate that there is a statistically significant positive relationship between the favorability of a country's electoral system to the election of women and the level of women's political representation in that country. Proportional representation electoral systems are particularly beneficial to female candidates. In addition, unlike previous scholars who focus on the dominant religion, I apply the concept of religiosity (the importance of religion to a country's citizens) to women's political representation. I find a statistically significant negative relationship between the level of religiosity in a country and the level of women's political representation in that country. Countries in which citizens are particularly religious tend to be conservative and less likely to encourage the election of women. However, none of the variables are statistically significant in the regression analysis of Eastern Europe, which indicates the need to take regional factors into consideration.

In the second part of the study, I examine four case studies (Sweden, Ireland, Hungary, and Macedonia). The case studies permit in-depth analyses of the individual countries, and show the manner in which structural and attitudinal factors interact in a particular country context. In the case of Macedonia, structural factors have mitigated the effects of negative attitudinal factors. In most of the case studies, however, a combination of structural (electoral system and gender quotas) and attitudinal factors (gender equality and religiosity) affect the level of women's political representation in the country. Ultimately, the case studies demonstrate how the country-specific context impacts the election of women to parliament.

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