New Article by Alumni: Subtle Sexism in Political Coverage

A new article by BA Alumni Rachel Garrett and PhD Alumni Dominik Stecula has been published in the Columbia Journalism Review. Examining whether subtle word choices matter, the authors asked 269 University Students to respond to a newspaper article on a mayoral race, where different versions of the article altered the candidate’s gender and the words used to describe them. The authors found that the readers responded more favourably to the articles where the candidate was described with masculine-coded adjectives, and that assumptions about the gender of a candidate had an impact on their perceived qualification for the role.

For journalists, this finding should be a wake-up call. While we know little about the effects of subtle sexism in the descriptive language used in normal news coverage, our results suggest that superficially harmless language choices can potentially change how the electorate views certain politicians.

“Subtle sexism in political coverage can have a real impact on candidates”

Columbia Journalism Review
September 4, 108

Read full article here


Rachel Garrett holds a BA Hons in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. She is currently a JD candidate at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. Dominik Stecula holds a PhD in Political Science from University of British Columbia. He is currently the Martin Fishbein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow (nonresident) at the Centre For Public Opinion and Political Representation at Simon Fraser University.