Gender and Political Representation
My work on gender and political representation revolves around several main questions, examining the effect of gender on the political choices of individuals, as well as on the political behavior of elected representatives. I conceptualize parliaments as gendered institutions and explore they way gender hierarchies, norms and stereotypes effect female representatives' parliamentary behavior and their ability to provide substantive representation to their female electorate. I give special attention to the Israeli case, for two main reasons. First, it is an understudied arena in Israeli scholarly work calling for additional research. Second, Israel makes a great case to comparatively explore the connections between gender and politics, as it shares similarities but also significant differences in this regard with other established democracies.
My most recent publication in this field is titled, “Risk Aversion and the Gender Gap in the Vote for Populist Radical Right Parties" (co-authored with Odelia Oshri, Liran Harsgor and Or Tuttnauer). This study builds on previous research which has established that men are more likely to vote for populist radical right parties (PPRPs) than women. We show how cross-national and temporal variation in PRRPs' electoral success interacts with individuals' risk propensity to affect this gender gap. We hypothesize that gender differences in the electoral support of PRRPs stems from gender differences in risk-taking. We conceptualize risk in terms of two components, social and electoral, and demonstrate that women are more risk-averse with regard to both. Our results challenge common explanations for the gender gap and shed light on the role of the electoral context and the different ways women and men respond to it. The study was published in the American Journal of Political Science and received the Falk Institute Award for Excellence in Research. It was also published in The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog.
Exploring female legislative behavior and the substantive representation of women, I focus on the links between gender and national security in the legislative arena in Israel, considering whether male and female legislators prioritize security differently, alongside other thematic policy areas. In a study titled, "Gendering Security: The Substantive Representation of Women in the Israeli Parliament" (co-authored with Chen Friedberg) we theorize on the trade-offs and pay-offs female legislators face when engaging in various policy issues, based on the alignment of such issues with existing gender stereotypes. We find that Israeli female legislators mostly refrain from addressing policy issues in which they encounter credibility issues, such as national security – a policy issue heavily dominated by men, and focus instead on policy issues which are stereotypically considered more 'suitable' for women, such as gender issues, where they can leverage the stereotype to their advantage. This study was published in the European Journal of Women's Studies.
In order to contribute to the broad understanding of gender and politics in Israel I co-authored a book titled, "The Representation of Women in Israeli Politics: A Comparative Perspective" (published by the Israel Democracy Institute). The book examines women's representation in politics and the factors affecting it over the years, compares women's representation in Israel with that in other countries, and analyzes how descriptive representation of women in the Knesset influences their substantive representation. The study also assesses the institutional mechanisms adopted in Israel to enhance women's representation in the Knesset, and proposes ways of strengthening and supplementing them.
With the support of the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) I am currently working on several projects intended to deepen the understanding of the substantive representation of women in Israel – an understudied research agenda in Israeli scholarly work. In these projects I explore whether and how gender affects the way Israeli MKs look at policy questions, the issues they prioritize, and the parliamentary initiatives they promote. Specifically, I am interested in the conditions under which female legislators will be more likely to initiate gender-based legislation and what affects this tendency. All projects require considerable data collection efforts. For these purposes I created a first-of-its-kind comprehensive database, documenting the behavioral patterns of Israeli male and female MKs. In addition to the collection of behavioral data, I conducted in-depth interviews with past and present female MKs, in order to study their subjective experiences as female legislators. Finally, I fielded an independent election survey prior the 2019 elections, with a special focus on gender and gender stereotypes in voters' election calculus.
Political representation from a top-down and bottom-up perspectives
My interest in democratic representation revolves around various aspects of the reciprocal relationship between representatives and represented. Focusing on representatives, I study the way in which elected representatives construct their views on and comprehension of their representative role, as a means to understand representational pitfalls. I am also interested in the role of institutions, such as the legislature, parliamentary committees or political parties in shaping legislative behavior and political representation. As for the represented, I focus on two main factors affecting political attitudes and voting: institutions and group affiliation. In this line of inquiry, I devote special attention to elections as a democratic process through which the public's policy preferences are translated into power sharing in legislatures and governments, leading ultimately to law-making and policy implementation.
In a paper titled, "Members of Parliaments' Constituency Orientation in the Absence of Electoral Districts: The Case of Extreme Proportional Electoral systems", I focus on the way institutions construct legislators' perceptions of representation. I examine legislators' constituency orientation in two of the most extreme cases of proportional representation, Israel and the Netherlands. Both countries use a proportional representation electoral system with a single nation-wide electoral district. Therefore, they lack institutional features that promote geographically-based representation. As a result, Israel and the Netherlands are considered to be limiting cases, providing evidence of the type of geographically-based representation we are likely to see when there are no electoral institutions which encourage such representation. While the literature predicts the geographical connection between voters and representatives in extreme proportional electoral systems to be minimal, rendering geographically-based representation practically null, the paper finds this to hold true for the Netherlands but not for Israel. It then seeks to find factors explaining variation in MPs' constituency orientation in the absence of electoral incentives. Among the factors found are the candidate selection in use by parties, the level of political decentralization and the conceptions of representation employed by MPs. The paper was published in Parliamentary Affairs.
Relatedly, an additional article analyzes the effect of electoral systems, candidate selection methods and the interplay between them on individual legislative behavior in general, and specifically on two facets of party unity: party agreement and party loyalty. The main argument of the paper titled, "Unpacking Party Unity: The Combined Effects of Electoral Systems and Candidate Selection Methods on Legislative Attitudes and Behavioral Norms" (co-authored with Reuven Hazan) is that one must take into account the effect of inter- as well as intra-party competition, and the interaction between the two, in order to explain individual legislative goals and behavior. Using data from 34 European parties across 10 countries the paper shows that under exclusive candidate selection methods there are large differences between proportional representation and single-member district electoral systems in their effect on party agreement and party loyalty. Under inclusive candidate selection methods, however, such differences are much less apparent. In other words, the candidate selection method conditions the influence of the electoral system on legislative attitudes and behavioral norms. This paper was published in Political Studies.
Focusing on the political party as a highly important actor in the parliamentary arena, I address political parties, representation and collective memory. In a paper titled, "The Collective Memory of Dominant Parties in Parliamentary Discourse" (co-authored with Shaul Shenhav, Gideon Rahat and Reuven Hazan) we examine the memory dynamics of dominant parties after their demise. We use theories of collective memory to identify four possible modes of memory in a post-dominance era, and suggest discursive and power-related indications for each mode. We then utilize this framework to examine the memory of Mapai, the once-dominant party in Israel. On the basis of this analysis, we propose hypotheses concerning the comparative cases of Sweden, Italy and Japan. This paper was published in Party Politics.
In a subsequent paper I continue to focus on political parties as I connect political parties with their legislators and explore the way parties use their personnel to pursue representational and electoral goals. In a paper titled, "Party Personnel Practices and Coalition Management in a Multiparty, Fragmented Setting" (co-authored with Matthew Shugart) we address the way parties assign members to parliamentary committees in fragmented multiparty settings. We analyze how the two most central institutions of parliamentary politics – political parties and parliamentary committees – interact with one another. To the best of our knowledge, no research into this subject has systematically explored the intersection of considerations based on individual legislator characteristics and coalition management in committee assignment. Using Israel as our case study, we show that legislators' expertise modestly shapes committee assignment patterns. However, parties in coalition often have another set of considerations to take into account when assigning members to committees. We show that parties in coalition do not only bargain on ministerial positions or committee chairs – they also bargain on their members' assignment to committees and use this resource to allow (or hinder) each other to augment influence and control in a given policy area, or to perform affective monitoring. This paper was published in Party Politics.
Flipping the coin and taking on the perspective of voters, I examine the way institutional, as well as contextual, factors affect vote choice. In a paper titled, "Vote Switching and Coalition-Directed Voting?" (co-authored with Liran Harsgor and Or Tuttnauer) we examine how coalition-directed voting, a common type of strategic voting in parliamentary democracies, affects vote switching. Utilizing an original three-wave online panel survey conducted in Israel in 2019-2020, we show that voters engage in formateur optimization and policy balancing: they switch their vote in order to affect the identity of the next formateur and desert a party they previously voted for if they believe it will not enter the next coalition. We also show that the perceived level of competition between potential formateurs moderates the effect of coalition expectations on vote switching. The paper highlights the importance of coalition and formateur considerations in electoral change and contributes to a better understanding of both coalition-directed voting and individual-level vote switching. This paper was published in the European Political Science Review.