Honors Thesis Spotlight: Did Florida Experience the Year of the Woman?

2018 is considered the  Year of the Woman after a record-breaking election of 127 women to Congress—the most elected into Congress since its establishment in 1789. In addition to experiencing the Year of the Woman, studies suggest a shift in political affiliation. The nation increasingly supported the Democratic Party in response to President Trump, now referred to as the Blue Wave. These shifts swept the nation, but did Florida experience them as well? This thesis explores the impact of the Year of the Woman and the Blue Wave in Florida, taking into account campaign finances, candidacy age, and filing dates.

The author conducts a literature review of election results, political preferences, and theory to create hypotheses. Several t-tests are utilized to explore the differences between the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections, as well as the differences between male and female candidates. An Ordinary Least Squares regression test is also conducted to investigate campaign finances and compare the election experiences of women and men.

Several factors in the years leading up to 2018 provide the context for the author’s interest in studying the 2018 Florida elections. One factor regards women’s reasons for running and voting; the author discusses that events in late 2017 such as the #MeToo movement, President Trump’s inauguration, and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in August 2018 might have inspired more women to run for office and vote in response to these events. On the other hand, the literature review reveals that political recruiters and other external players impact a women’s decision to run more than internal factors. The author also reviews studies that conclude women have similar levels of electoral success as men, however, they face more competition in elections. Political organizations also play a role in women’s decisions to run; the author discusses the financial and political benefits of an increased amount of Democratic female candidate training organizations.

Thus, the author analyzes factors that suggest advantages for Democratic candidates: more female candidate training organizations, increased donations, and a concerning political landscape for many women. The author makes several hypotheses. They believe that the demographic of the election was more women, specifically more female Democratic candidates. In regards to campaign finance, due to more community support, the author believes Democratic women will receive smaller but more frequent donations than in 2014 and 2016, as well as more than men and Republican women. Due to the higher levels of young women being politically involved after the 2016 election, and the election of younger members of Congress, the author hypothesizes that Florida will also experience younger female candidates than in 2014 and 2016. Finally, because of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the trend of more women voting than men as well as the trend of women more likely to be Democrats, the author hypothesizes that Democratic women will experience better election results than in 2014 and 2016.

More women ran for the Florida legislature in 2018 than in 2014 and 2016. While the number of Republican women remained constant, more Democratic women ran. However, the t-tests show that the results are not out of the ordinary. There are no statistically significant differences between the number of women candidates or the number of Democratic women that ran in 2018 compared to other years.

Other t-tests found more significant variables. In the context of campaign finance, Democratic women received more donations in 2018 than they had in previous years. These donations were smaller—but more frequent—than other candidates. The author suggests that receiving small individual donations, rather than support from institutions such as the Democratic National Committee, could explain the lower numbers of women elected in the 2018 Florida midterms. Nonetheless, the increased amount of donations from the community suggest Florida might be shifting preferences towards more Democratic candidates, similar to the national Blue Wave in 2018.

There proved to be no statistically significant difference in the ages of women candidates in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections. However, Democratic women were older than other candidates overall. The Ordinary Least Squares test reveals that male and female candidates experienced similar rates of success in their campaigns; however, in general, candidates who filed earlier had a better chance of winning.

Ultimately, the author does not find enough evidence to consider 2018 the Year of the Woman in Florida. Data suggests that Democratic women require more institutional support, specifically to encourage younger women to run. Overall, there are more research opportunities on this topic. The author highlights the benefits of analyzing both past and future elections. This would provide data from both midterm and Presidential elections as well as allow to test for abnormalities in specific elections. Nonetheless, this study provides interesting insight into the 2018 elections in Florida.

Source for featured image: http://sigonglaw.com/en/members-3/

Kimberlee McMillin

Image provided by: LinkedIn

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