Big Boys Don’t Cry: Evaluations of Politicians Across Issue, Gender, and Emotion

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Emotional appeals are powerful motivators of political action. Yet the gender of a politician and the existing stereotypes held by audiences complicate the determination of which type of emotional appeal is best suited for different issue areas. In what ways do politicians’ emotional appeals serve to mitigate or exacerbate the impact of gender stereotypes across different policy domains? This research examines when politicians pay penalties or gain rewards for their emotional expressions using a survey experiment on a diverse national sample. We find evidence that women politicians are on equal footing or stand to benefit when expressing masculine emotions while also having greater emotional freedom across policy domains. Men politicians, on the other hand, are significantly punished for not acting “manly” enough in masculine policy domains. Nonetheless, these patterns become complicated by both situational context and partisan expectations. The results provide promise for the future prospects of women politicians while pointing to the continued relevance of gendered stereotypes about emotionality in today’s political world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-740
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Emotion
  • Gender
  • Partisanship
  • Political evaluation
  • Stereotype

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