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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

Pixels & the Polls: The impact of female role models in television media on the perceived electability of women

Presenter: Amy Griffin
Authors: Amy Griffin
Faculty Advisor: Sarah Coyne
Institution: Brigham Young University

It’s no secret that women are extraordinarily underrepresented in government and misrepresented in media. To better understand the impact of fictional television media featuring a positive female leader on the public’s perception of the electability of women and on their willingness to support women's campaigns, this study aimed to measure participants’ voting choices after viewing a positive fictional female leader. 104 college-age participants viewed fifteen-minute segments taken from episodes of CBS’s political drama Madam Secretary featuring either a male president or the female Secretary of State as each navigated political challenges. The participants completed vignette election experiences between nonpartisan municipal candidates, a male and a female, to determine how participants would vote following the stimulus. They additionally rated each candidate on their "likability" and "competence” and were shown the profile of a "real" female candidate with the option to donate a portion of their compensation to the candidate’s campaign. The present study found no significant change in the electing of or in the positive rating of female candidates following the women-lead stimulus, nor did it find any significant change in donation to a woman’s campaign. The findings of this thesis encourage additional study under different conditions, especially with longer and more consistent exposure to the media, in order to investigate the potential prosocial impacts of television media portraying strong female characters.