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The Changing Face of Representation

The Gender of U.S. Senators and Constituent Communications

Kim L. Fridkin and Patrick J. Kenney

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: CAWP Series in Gender and Politics

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Chapter 1. The Senator’s Gender and Representational Messages

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pp. 1-28

In the wake of the historic presidential and congressional elections of 2008, it was clear that President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress were focused on passing the most far-reaching and significant piece of health-care legislation since Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law on July 30, 1965. President Obama urged Congress to pass health-care reform during numerous speeches, including his State of the Union address in 2009. Republican and Democratic representatives introduced 133 bills related to health care during the first year of the 111th Congress (Jan. 2009–Dec. 2009).2...

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Chapter 2. Measuring the Content and Impact of Representational Messages

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pp. 29-42

There are three fundamental questions motivating this book: (1) Do male and female senators articulate different types of messages when governing and campaigning? (2) Do reporters and editors cover male and female senators differently? (3) Do citizens’ understanding and assessments of senators vary with the senator’s gender? To answer these questions, we need data capturing the communications disseminated by senators, we need data measuring the messages produced by news media about these senators, and we need data revealing what citizens know and think about these elected officials...

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Chapter 3. The Websites of Senators and Presentation of Self

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pp. 43-62

Const ituents interest ed in learning more about their senator can click on their senator’s official website.1 Today, all U.S. senators have their own websites (Gulati 2004). The website of Senator John Cornyn of Texas currently features a picture of the senator with the slogan “United States Senator for Texas” at the top of the screen. In the center of the home page is a large picture of Senator Cornyn standing at a podium with the words, “Cornyn: Voter ID Decision Purely Political” appearing below the picture. Visitors interested in reading more about the Justice Department’s decision to oppose Texas’ voter identification law can click and read more about Senator Cornyn’s view on this decision...

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Chapter 4. How the Senator’s Gender Influences the Content of Press Releases

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pp. 63-80

On March 8, 2012, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) posted a press release on her official website titled, “Gillibrand, Senate Democratic Women Call on Boehner to Abandon Pledge to Continue Contraception Fight.” The press release begins, “Senators to Boehner on International Women’s Day: ‘Women are tired of being targets for a political strategy that endangers their health care and they want it to stop.’” The body of the press release explains, “Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with eleven Democratic women Senators, sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner calling on him to rescind his pledge to push forward with efforts to restrict women’s access to contraception after the Blunt amendment was defeated in the Senate.”1...

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Chapter 5. Coverage of Senators in the Local Press

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pp. 81-108

In 1872, an editorial in the New York Times described presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull as wearing “dainty high-heeled boots” (Falk 2010). More than 100 years later, in 2010, the New York Times published an article with the headline “Blazing Campaign Trails in a Certain 3-Inch Heel.” In the article, the reporter explains that “Reshma Saujani has a lot to say about her bid to challenge Representative Carolyn B. Maloney in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary . . .

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Chapter 6. Citizens’ Understanding of Their U.S. Senators

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pp. 109-131

The Iraq War began in the spring of 2003 with almost three-quarters of Americans supporting the invasion. However, by the spring of 2006 approximately half of U.S. citizens believed the United States had made the wrong decision using military force against Iraq.1 A national debate was underway during the 2006 congressional elections, partly focused on the question of how long should America stay in Iraq. Some members of Congress were working on legislation to force the Bush administration to make plans to leave Iraq by a specific date...

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Chapter 7. The Impact of the Senator’s Gender during Reelection Campaigns

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pp. 132-156

The fundamental mechanism for holding legislators accountable to the people of the United States is frequent elections. This has always been the case for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. But for U.S. senators, the U.S. Constitution granted state legislatures power to select and hold senators accountable. In the midst of a nationwide movement to further democratize many of America’s political institutions in the early decades of the 20th century, Congress passed and the states ratified the 17th Amendment in 1913...

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Chapter 8. The Changing Face of the U.S. Senate and Representational Messages

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pp. 157-170

In this final chapter, we review our findings on the relationship between gender and representational messages and place them in a broader context. We believe that our findings allow us to contribute to several concepts and debates in American politics, including how stereotypes held by citizens shape legislator’s representational communications, how the media perpetuates stereotypes about women, and insights regarding the importance of descriptive representation...


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pp. 171-206


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pp. 207-222


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pp. 223-240


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pp. 241-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780472120086
E-ISBN-10: 0472120085
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119233
Print-ISBN-10: 0472119230

Illustrations: 15 figures, 36 tables
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: CAWP Series in Gender and Politics