Sarah Palin and Hillary Rodham Clinton are not similar people. The people they appeal to, the way they dress, what they believe about politics and policy, could not be further away from one another. But they do have something in common: They're successful female politicians. (Yes, we can debate over how we define the term "successful" here. But at the very least, both were voted by a state's electorate to a prominent role—governor for Palin, senator for Clinton.)
But it's not so easy to conjure up an image of a female politician. While male leaders are easily labeled "ambitious," or "competitive," female leaders evade a consistent stereotype. Clinton and Palin might be an extreme illustration of this idea, but recent research suggests it's true of female politicians at large.
"Voters seem to be ambivalent towards female politicians and to have ill-defined ideas about what it means to be a female politician," write political scientists Monica C. Schneider and Angela L. Bos, in the latest issue of the Journal Political Psychology. "Despite gains in the percentage of politicians who are female, there may still not be enough women in office for voters to form a consensus of stereotypical qualities."
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Take a look at their chart below; the differences are clear. While 93.5 percent of the study's participants described women as "feminine," only 45.1 percent used the same term to describe female politicians. Similar gaps exist for terms such as "emotional," "caring," and "compassionate."