Corruption and Sexual Scandal: The Importance of Politician Gender

  • Magdalena Anna Żemojtel-Piotrowska University of Gdańsk
  • Alison Marganski Le Moyne College
  • Tomasz Baran University of Warsaw
  • Jarosław Piotrowski University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poznan Campus
Keywords: political scandal, gender stereotypes, expectancy violations theory, shifting standards theory


The current experimental study analyzes individuals’ reactions to politicians involved in scandals as a function of scandal type and politician sex (N = 798). Corruption and sexual scandals were considered. The results indicate that female politicians were judged more harshly than male politicians involved in scandals regardless of the type of scandal. Scandal affected not only assessment of their morality but also competence, contrary to assessment of men. The results were discussed in reference to expectancy violations theory and shifting standards theory which predicts more negative evaluation of women involved in immoral behavior despite lack general prejudices toward women in politics.


Download data is not yet available.


Abele, A., & Wojciszke, B. (2014). Communal and agentic content in social cognition: A dual perspective model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 195-255.

Basinger, S.J., & Rottinghaus, B. (2012). Skeleton in White House closets: A discussion on modern presidential scandals. Political Science Quarterly, 127, 213-239. DOI: 10.1002/j.1538-165X.2012.tb00725.x

Berinsky, A.J., Hutchings, V.L., Mendelberg, T., Shaker, L., & Valentino, N.A. (2010). Sex and race: Are Black candidates more disadvantaged by sex scandals? Political Behavior, 33, 179-202. DOI: 10.1007/s11109-010-9135-8.

Bertolotti, M., Catellani, P., Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2013). The “Big Two” in political communication: The effect of attacking and defending politicians’ leadership in morality. Social Psychology, 44, 117-128. DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000141

Bhatti, Y., Hansen, K. M., & Olsen, A. L. (2013). Political hypocrisy: The effect of political scandals on candidate evaluations. Acta Politica, DOI: 10.1057/ap.2013.6

Biernat, M. (2003). Toward a broader view of social stereotyping. American Psychologist, 58, 1019-1027.

Biernat, M., & Manis, M. (1994) Shifting standards and stereotype-based judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 5-20.

Boski, P. (2010). Central-Eastern Europe or Post-Communist Europe? Always behind the West? Presentation on conference: From the totalitarianism toward democracy in Central-Eastern Europe. Warsaw, November 2010.

Brambilla, M., Rusconi, P., Sacchi, S., Cherubini, P. (2011). Looking for honesty: The primary role of morality (vs. sociability and competence) in information gathering. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 135-143. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.744

Brooks, D.J. (2014). He runs, she runs: Why gender stereotypes do not harm women candidates. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Burgoon, J. K. (1978). A communication model of personal space violation: Explication and an initial test. Human Connection Research, 4, 129-142.

Burgoon, J. K., & Hale, J. L. (1988). Nonverbal expectancy violations: Model elaboration and application to immediacy behaviors. Communication Monographs, 55, 58-79.

Cepernich, C. (2008). Landscapes of immorality: Scandals in Italian press (1998-2006). Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 9, 95-109. DOI: 10.1080/15705850701825568

Cislak, A., & Wojciszke, B. (2006). The role of self-interest and competence in attitudes toward politicians. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 37, 203-212.

Dolan, K. (2014). When does gender matter? Women candidates and gender stereotypes in American elections. Oxford University Press. DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199968275.001.0001

Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review, 109, 573-598. DOI: 10.1037//0033-295X.109.3.573

Fiske, A. P., Haslam, N., & Fiske, S. E. (1991). Confusing one person with another: What errors reveal about the elementary forms of social relations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 656-674.

Ford, L. E. (2002). Women and politics: The pursuit of equality. Boston, MA, US: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Glaser, J., & Salovey, P. (1998). Affect in electoral politics. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 156-172.

Huddy, L., & Terkildsen, N. (1993). Gender stereotypes and the perceptions of male and female candidates. American Journal of Political Science, 37, 119–147.

Inter-parliamentary Union (2015). Women in national parliaments. Retrieved on 20 January 2015 from

Johns, R., & Shepard, M. (2007). Gender, candidate image and electoral preference. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 7, 436-438.

Johnson, I. (2005). Political trust in societies under transformation. International Journal of Sociology, 35, 63-84.

Jussim, L., Coleman, L. M., & Lerch, L. (1987). The nature of stereotypes: A comparison and integration of three theories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 536–545.

Kahn, K. F. (1992). Does being male help? An investigation of the effects of candidate gender and campaign coverage on evaluations of U.S. Senate candidates. The Journal of Politics, 54, 497–517.

Kepplinger, H. M. (2005). Die mechanismen der skandalierung. Die macht der medien und die möglichkeietn der bettroffen (The mechanisms of scandalization in media). Munchen: Olzon Verlag.

Kovacs, M. (2011). Political representation and representation of politicians: The “Think politician think male” phenomenon. Paper on Political Psychology Networking Conference for the Post-Communist Region, POLBERG, Budapest, 24-26 November, 2011.

Kumlin, S. & Esaiasson, P. (2012). Scandal fatigue? Scandal elections and satisfaction with democracy in Western Europe, 1977-2007. British Journal of Political Science, 42, 263-28. DOI: 10.1017/S000712341100024X

Maier, J. (2011). The impact of political scandals on political support: An experimental test of two theories. International Political Science Review, 32, 283-302. DOI: 10.1177/0192512110378056

McGraw, K. M., Timpone, R., & Bruck, G. (1993). Justifying controversial political decisions: Home style in the laboratory. Political Behavior, 15, 289–308.

Neckel, S. (2005). Political scandals: an analytic framework. Comparative Sociology, 4(1-2), 101-114.

Puchalska, B. (2005). Polish democracy in transition? Political Studies, 53, 816-832.

Puglisi, R., & Snyder, J.M. (2011). Newspaper coverage of political scandals. The Journal of Politics, 73, 931-950. DOI: 10.1017/S0022381611000569

Sanbonmatsu, K. (2002). Gender stereotypes and vote choice. American Journal of Political Science, 46, 20-34.

Sanbonmatsu, K. (2005). Do parties know that women win? Party leader beliefs about women's electability. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association’s Annual Meeting, Washington DC, 1-25.

Schneider, M.C., & Bos, A. L. (2014). Measuring stereotypes of female politicians. Political Psychology, 35, 245-266. DOI: 10.1111/pops.12040

Siemieńska, R. (1994). Women in the period of systemic changes in Poland. Journal of Women’s History, 5, 70-90. DOI: 10.1353/jowh.2010.0283

Smith, E. S., Smith-Powers, A., & Suarez, G. A. (2005). If Bill Clinton were a woman: The effectiveness of male and female politicians’ account strategies following alleged transgressions, Political Psychology, 26, 115- 134.

Stewart, D.D., Rose, R. P., Rosales, F. M., Rudney, P. D., Lehner, T.A., Miltich G., Snyder C.,

& Sadecki, B. (2013). The value of outside support for male and female politicians involved in a political sex scandal. The Journal of Psychology, 153, 375-394. DOI:10.1080/00224545.2012.744292

Thompson, J. B. (2000). Political scandal: Power and visibility in the media age. Polity Press.

Vivyan, N., Wagner, M., & Tarlov, J. (2012). Representative misconduct, voter perceptions and accountability: evidence from the 2009 House of Commons expenses scandal. Electoral Studies, 31, 750-763.

Wattenberg, M. (1991). The rise of candidate-centered politics: Presidential elections of the 1980s. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press.

Wiliams, J. E., & Best, D. L. (1990). Sex and psyche: Gender and self viewed cross-culturally. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Wiid, R., Pitt, L.E., & Engstrom, A. (2011). Not so sexy: public opinion of political sex scandals

as reflected in political cartoons. Journal of Public Affairs, 11, 137-147. DOI: 10.1002/pa.401

Wojciszke, B., & Klusek, B. (1996). Moral and competence-related traits in political perception. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 27, 319-325.

How to Cite
Żemojtel-Piotrowska, M. A., Marganski, A., Baran, T., & Piotrowski, J. (2016). Corruption and Sexual Scandal: The Importance of Politician Gender. Anales De Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 33(1), 133-141.
Social and Organizational Psychology