Mainstreaming democratic backsliding: The role of gender stereotypes

Julia Elad-Strenger, Lihi Ben-Shitrit, Sivan Hirsch-Hoefler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radical-right parties have gradually penetrated the political mainstream in many liberal democracies, marking a trend of ‘democratic backsliding’. We propose that women's increasing visibility as representatives of radical-right agendas makes democratic backsliders, their policies and their parties seem more legitimate, and may help explain their growing public acceptance. Our studies provide the first systematic examination of this hypothesis in three countries – Israel, Germany and the United States (N = 7203). In Studies 1a-c, we show that voters perceive democracy-eroding policies through a gendered lens – they attribute gender stereotypes to the parties promoting these policies and to the public supporting these policies. In Studies 2a-c, we experimentally demonstrate the effect of politicians’ gender on public acceptance of democracy-eroding policies, politicians and parties, and demonstrate the role of gender stereotypes in mediating this effect. Finally, we show that the audiences susceptible to the mainstreaming effect of politicians’ gender are precisely those that are often particularly repelled by radical-right agendas and their perceived masculine image: Women and left-wing voters.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • democratic backsliding
  • experimental
  • gender
  • gender stereotypes
  • radical-right

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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