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Can exposure to sexual objectification impact policy attitudes? Evidence from two survey experiments

New publication by Claire M. Gothreau, Julian Schuessler & Amanda Milena Alvarez (Temple University, Philadelphia) in Politics and the Life Sciences

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/pls.2024.5

Abstract: Research in social psychology has long argued that exposure to objectifying portrayals of women can lead to increasingly misogynist attitudes and behavior. We argue that such images can also impact on gendered policy attitudes. We suggest that objectifying images prime sexist attitudes and reduce perceptions of women’s agency, warmth, and competence. We argue that this may translate into decreased support for reproductive rights and other gender-salient policies. Furthermore, these effects may vary by the gender of those exposed to these images. In two survey experiments with brief exposures to objectifying images, we find mixed support for these predictions. Although we find some negative effects as predicted, we also find positive effects of objectification among women in the sample that are suggestive of a backlash effect. We discuss potential explanations for this heterogeneity. Overall, our results suggest interesting avenues to further explore the effects of objectification on political outcomes.