Party Nominations and Female Electoral Performance: Evidence from Germany

Hanno Hilbig1, Pia Raffler1, Thomas Fujiwara2
1Harvard University, USA. 2Princeton University, USA


What accounts for difference in electoral performance between male and female candidates? We introduce a novel decomposition strategy to distinguish between discrimination by voters and discrimination by parties in the candidate nomination process. In doing so, we exploit the unique features of the German electoral system, where voters simultaneously cast votes for a party and for a candidate in their constituency. Using a panel of over 80,000 electoral precincts in the five most recent elections, we establish two findings: First, female district candidates nominated by the center-right CDU and the center-left SPD perform worse than their male counterparts. Second, the difference in performance is driven by party nomination strategies: The CDU and the SPD systematically nominate female candidates in districts where the party is less popular, making it harder for women to win those districts. In comparison, discrimination by voters accounts for a comparatively small part of the overall difference in electoral performance. Our findings have important implications for research on underrepresentation of women in politics, as they face an uphill battle to perform well in weaker districts.