A gender gap in nascent political ambition is among the best documented in political behaviour. Although the reasons for this gender gap are numerous, it has often been speculated that the media might be partly responsible for suppressing ambition among women. Considerable evidence shows that women in politics are generally subject to more attention being paid to their appearance, marital status and sex than their male counterparts. Does this kind of media coverage dampen political ambition? We test this possibility in two experimental studies. In Study 1, we explore whether overtly sexualised coverage regarding the appearance of politicians can dampen political ambition, while Study 2 considers whether media coverage focusing on the private lives of politicians (specifically parental/marital status) affects political ambition. This two-study approach allows us to consider whether media coverage of political officials is related to political ambition and whether different types of media coverage have different effects.
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