Kelly Senters: The Electoral Buzz - Evaluating Gender Stereotypes and the Politics of the Zika Epidemic in Brazil

Friday, October 19, 2018, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Venue: GR 2.326
Admission: Free
Season: 2018-19

Brought to you by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, CUSLAI, and the School of Arts and Humanities:


We leverage the quasi-random outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil in 2015-2016 and the accompanying priming of “women’s issues” relating to infant health to ground experimental insight on the relationship between gender stereotypes regarding issue competencies and political support for female candidates in the real world. Using difference-in-difference analyses, we assess whether exposure to the Zika virus increased political support for female candidates in the 2016 Brazilian local elections. We find that high incidences of the virus in the months immediately preceding the election increased female candidates’ vote shares and demonstrate that our results do not hold when we consider other viruses transmitted by the same mosquito but without adverse consequences for infant health. We dispel a series of alternative explanations for our results and use empirical analyses conducted with public opinion data to substantiate our argument that exposure to the virus improved voters’ perceptions of female candidates.


Kelly Senters studies decentralization, subnational fragmentation, democratic transitions, corruption, and gender politics in Latin America. She is developing a book manuscript from her dissertation research on the causes and consequences of subnational fragmentation – a process by which local communities split into two or more new communities. She studies the effects of subnational fragmentation on political participation in local elections and on the quality of public primary education in Brazil. Beyond this project, Senters’s research considers the dynamics of local- and national-level political regime transitions, public attitudes toward corruption, and the political representation of women. The Lemann Foundation, the Tinker Foundation, and the United States Department of Education have contributed funding to her research. Senters has been published in Latin American Politics and Society, the Handbook of Brazilian Politics, and the Handbook on Geographies of Corruption. Senters received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018 and her B.A. in Government and International Affairs from Lafayette College in 2013.

For more information contact:
The Center for U.S.-Latin America Initiatives
[email protected]

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