The purpose of this paper is to examine perceptions of the “Ideal President” (IP) and presidential candidates in the 2016 US presidential election in relation to gender stereotypes and leader prototypes.
In all, 378 business students assessed perceptions of either the IP or a particular candidate on measures of masculinity and femininity. Androgyny (balance of masculinity and femininity) and hypermasculinity (extremely high masculinity) scores were calculated from these measures.
The IP was perceived as higher in masculinity than femininity, but less similar to the male (Donald Trump) than the female (Hillary Clinton) candidate. IP perceptions were more androgynous than in the 2008 US presidential election. Respondents’ political preferences were related to their IP perceptions on hypermasculinity, which in turn were consistent with perceptions of their preferred candidate.
Trump’s high hypermasculinity scores may explain why he won the electoral college vote, whereas Clinton’s being perceived as more similar to the IP, and IP perceptions’ becoming more androgynous over time, may explain why she won the popular vote.
The study extends the literature on the linkages between gender stereotypes and leader prototypes in two respects. Contrary to the general assumption of a shared leader prototype, it demonstrates the existence of different leader prototypes according to political preference. The hypermasculinity construct, which was introduced to interpret leader prototypes in light of Trump’s candidacy and election, represents a valuable addition to the literature with potentially greater explanatory power than masculinity in some situations.
The authors thank Caroline Gatrell and the Department of Leadership and Management at Lancaster University Management School for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, which was presented at the 2017 Academy of Management Meeting in Atlanta.
Powell, G.N., Butterfield, D.A. and Jiang, X. (2018), "Why Trump and Clinton won and lost: the roles of hypermasculinity and androgyny", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 44-62. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-08-2017-0166Download as .RIS
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