Masculinity and Femininity in Politics: Expectations and Implications

  • Meredith Conroy
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


What does it mean to be “presidential”? When asked this question, a person may draw from past presidents they esteem, such as Lincoln or Kennedy, or from abstract qualities they find admirable, such as trustworthiness or intelligence. They may even consider fictional representations of presidents to inform their notion of what it means to be “presidential,” such as Martin Sheen’s portrayal of president Jeb Bartlett in the seven season series, The West Wing, or Harrison Ford’s character President James Marshall in Air Force One (1994). A study published in 1980 describes a citizen’s idealized conception of a president as a prototype. The description of a presidential prototype is distinct from an evaluation of a sitting or past president; instead it represents the hypothetical embodiment of an idealized president in the eyes of potential voters. The authors note, “Prototypes are categories people hold about the nature of the world. An ideal president prototype in particular consists of the features that citizens believe best define an exemplary president” (Kinder et al. 1980, 316). Using open-ended interviews and surveys, Kinder et al. (1980) found that the traits most commonly acknowledged when respondents described their presidential prototype were honest, knowledgeable, open-minded, and courageous.


National Security Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Republican Party Female Candidate 
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© Meredith Conroy 2015

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  • Meredith Conroy

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