Public Support for Increasing Women and Minority MPs

Catherine Bolzendahl, Hilde Coffé

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Most democracies fail to provide equal representation and tend to have an overrepresentation of men from the upper class and the majority racial or ethnic group. We investigate public support for increasing the number of women and indigenous Māori members of parliament (MPs) in the New Zealand Parliament, both in general and through specific mechanisms such as quotas and reserved seats. We offer three explanations: descriptive (group identity), substantive (issue alignment), and symbolic (socioeconomic and political equity concerns). Using data from the 2014 New Zealand Election Study, we found that shared identity (descriptive) matters for all measures of increased representation, but especially for Māori respondent support of increased Māori MPs. Support for increasing the proportion of Māori MPs is also strongly driven by substantive concerns, as measured by support for keeping the Treaty of Waitangi in law. Support for increasing the number of women MPs is driven most strongly by symbolic concerns (measured as increased government social spending and efforts to reduce income differences). Overall, respondents favor retaining the current number of reserved seats for Māori MP representation, whereas informal efforts (rather than quotas) are strongly preferred for increasing the number of women MPs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-710
Number of pages30
JournalPolitics and Gender
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • Gender
  • indigenous population
  • MÄori
  • New Zealand
  • public opinion
  • representation
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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