The Cycle   |  April 09, 2013

Are women more effective legislators?

Political scientist Craig Volden explains his research from the American Journal of Political Science, which found that female lawmakers are better than their male counterparts at reaching across the aisle and could be more effective at their jobs.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> our next guest tracked every bill sponsored in the u.s. congress since 1973 . something steve kornacki does for fun and he found that men have dominated the cap. males are twice as likely to have their bill passed in congress . no surprise there. but women , especially in the minority parties have in many ways been more effective members of congress . men, they say, ten toward polarizing partisan stance. women , partially due to their clout, reach across the aisle making them better at keeping their bills alive. in some ways, making they will flat out better at their jobs. more evidence that virginia screwed up when they did not elect krystal ball to congress . joining us now, one of the people behind that exhaustive research, political scientist who has work, when are women more effective lawmakers than men. welcome, craig .

>> thanks for having me on the show.

>> i like your polarized party differences hypothesis. you're saying when the parties are more polarized, both majority and minority party women will be more effective than males. in the situation that we're in now, when there is more polarization between the parties, minority party women are more effective and majority party women are not any more effective. explain the hypothesis and why it is so.

>> let me give you a little background. we check any bill that any member of the house of representatives sponsored from 1973 to the prep. 140,000 bills . and we weighted them in terms of how important they were. reform on social security being more weighty than renaming the post office . we gave every member a score. we anlized the scores and we found the obvious things. it helps to be in the majority party . it helps to be a committee chair. seniority is important. controlling for all those factors, we found on average women arer month effective than men in congress . we dug down deeper and found that much of that effect is we will in the minority party . where they continue to push work across pa rty lines, advance their agendas, and get things done. and men tend toward a more obstructionist role at that point. true for democrats. true for republicans. true for the past 40 years.

>> well, craig , let's take a little trip in to our imaginations. let's say that we had a congress and a house and a senate that were 50% male, 50% female.

>> i like it.

>> based on your research, how would it be different?

>> so if that happened through a natural process, like electing more women to congress --

>> yes.

>> -- the initial reaction would be pretty slow because our finding is congress still a very seniority-oriented institution, most of those women wouldn't move up into subcommittee chairs, to committee shachair roles quickly. for example, we tracked across the past 40 years and committee chairs go, of course, to members of the majority party . 10% of men in the majority party get a me chair and 2% of women in the majority party .

>> wow.

>> it's going to take some time as well as those numbers to switch.

>> craig , i thought the study was really fascinating and you obviously control for a lot of variables. but i wanted to push you on the operating premise of what makes for effective legislators. because you actually define that as saying we explicitly define legislative effectiveness as the advancement of a member's agenda item through the legislative process into law." that sounds like a reasonable approach to me, but i think it also tracks more closely with what progressives view as the role of congress . which is to pass a lot of laws. there are clearly many members of the republican party and people around the country who think that what they want out of their representative is to pass less laws and have less government action in spending. so does that get addressed anywhere in your study? or is that just sort of something we have to live with in terms of the frame you have?

>> sure. we would definitely care about that. and so we did track how many bills are sponsored by republicans, how many by democrats and answer is the same.

>> no, that's not --

>> the different bills --

>> that's not the question. the question is, does it go toward a progressive view of government to define efficacy as passing more bills ? what do you say to a republican who says i deliberately didn't pass as many bills ?

>> i would say then why did you sponsor so many bills because they're sponsoring at the same rate as democrats are. and trying to get things done, it's just a different set of priorities.

>> craig , you know, i can think of some notable counters to your argument. one just passed away , margaret thatcher was an iconoclast and revolutionary. but far from gaining consensus, she earned a lot of criticism and in fact she was eventually pushed out by her own party. it's hard to remember now that hillary clinton has been -- but there was a time when she actually had a hard time making some friends both on her side on the aisle and across the aisle. so maybe is this something that really only applies to women who aren't in leadership or high-profile positions?

>> it's interesting because obviously these are general tendencies and we could track what a couple prominent women in congress did. according to our scores, the highest performing woman was lenore sullivan. we might not remember her, but a long serving congresswoman right up through the 19 70s. her view was it was important to have a women 's perspective in congress , but upon reaching there, she was advocating that women , you know, go with the flow, act like men. and if we follow that along to nancy pelosi , she wasn't introducing very much at all when she was in the minority party . she doesn't match our data well. in the majority party , not really working across party lines . embracing the hyperpartisanship that we see now. so there are those examples, definitely, along the way.

>> leaning in, it looks like.

>> right.

>> craig , volden, thank you very much.

>>> up next --

>> thanks for having me.

>> -- a serious lesson s.e. learned while visiting her alma