Representations of Women Voters in Newspaper Coverage of UK Elections 1918–2010

  • Emily Harmer
  • Liesbet van Zoonen
Part of the Citizenship, Gender and Diversity book series (FEMCIT)


Contemporary research has shown the propensity for women voters to be constructed in highly gendered terms in media coverage of electoral campaigns. They are represented as mothers and wives, whose familial roles impact on their political priorities. This chapter will show that these trends have their roots in historic election coverage by presenting an analysis of British newspaper coverage between 1918 (the first election that women were able to vote and stand as candidates) and 2010. The chapter draws upon a quantitative and qualitative analysis of five national newspapers’ election coverage. The analysis shows women have been consistently represented as wives whose vote reflects that of their husbands, and as mothers whose political concerns are almost exclusively bound up with the health and well-being of their families. Much of the time, they are represented as being predominantly concerned about the cost of living, until the 1970s when health and welfare became the biggest concern. Despite some important changes, the persistence of heavily gendered representations in the public construction of politics is limiting as it serves to portray women in simplistic terms as a homogenous mass which excludes women who do not conform to these stereotypes.


National Health Service Public Sphere Private Sphere Political Concern Newspaper Coverage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily Harmer
    • 1
  • Liesbet van Zoonen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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