Professors to track women gubernatorial candidate campaigns

Tessa Ditonto (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
Tessa Ditonto (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
David Andersen (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
David Andersen (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Professors Tessa Ditonto and David Andersen of the Iowa State University Department of Political Science, working in conjunction with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, have been awarded a $64,627 grant from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation to track all the gubernatorial campaigns involving women candidates in the 2016 election cycle.

The BLFF, which has been tracking such campaigns for 20 years, seeks to focus on how women candidates encounter and react to gendered campaign dynamics as they seek the highest elected office in each state.

“Women candidates face unique challenges when running for office,” Ditonto said. “Women often have to contend with gender-based stereotypes and assumptions about their abilities and qualifications. This adds to the work that women’s campaigns must do. Governors are the highest-profile elected office within each state, and we are excited to track how women seeking the governorship this year react to a gendered campaign environment,” she said.

“This year, for the first time we will have a woman running on top of the ticket across the country, with Hillary Clinton for the presidency,” Andersen added. “Some of our research suggests that voters tend to use gender cues to a greater extent when more women are running for office at the same time, and that those cues matter more for women seeking the lower office. This will be the first time in American history that women seeking the governorship will potentially have to cope with this,” he said.

“We are looking forward to working with Tessa and Dave on this important research project,” said Catt Center director Dianne Bystrom. “We are familiar with the work of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and have used their research reports on such topics as speaking with authority, positioning women to win and political intelligence for women running for governor in our Ready to Run® Iowa campaign school.”

The foundation was established by Barbara Lee, who was inspired by her grandmother’s stories of suffragists marching on New York City’s Fifth Avenue in the early 1900s. The foundation has studied and published research about every woman’s gubernatorial race since 1988. Through its nonpartisan research focusing on women governors, the foundation gives women candidates at all levels the essential knowledge and tools to meet the challenges of campaigning.

Ditonto and Andersen joined the Iowa State political science faculty as assistant professors in fall 2013. Both earned their doctorates in political science from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Ditonto’s work is broadly centered in women and politics, political behavior and political psychology and focuses on how voters learn about political candidates and make decisions during political campaigns. She earned her doctorate in 2013 with concentrations in American politics, women and politics, and political methodology. At ISU, Ditonto has taught courses on American politics, political behavior, public opinion, political psychology and women in politics.

Andersen studies political psychology, political behavior and American elections. After earning his doctorate in 2011, he worked at the Center on the American Governor, a research arm of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, from 2011 to 2013. At ISU, Andersen teaches courses on research methodology, American government, the presidency, and various courses covering political psychology, campaigns and elections, and political behavior.