Gender, Candidate Selection and Constituency Size in the 2011 General Election

By Claire McGing, John and Pat Hume scholar and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) scholar, Dept of Geography, NUI Maynooth

Research suggests that the larger the constituency size (often called the ‘district magnitude’), the better the opportunity structure for aspiring women candidates. This is often linked to ‘party magnitude’ – the number of seats a party expects to win in a given constituency. If this is high, the selectorate may be more likely to take a risk and run women candidates alongside their (usually male) incumbents. If not, it may look odd if the candidates all look the same.

Ireland has one of the lowest average district magnitudes of all countries using a system of proportional representation to elect their parliament. Candidates are elected to represent three, four or five seat constituencies, with an average of 3.9 in the 2011 general election. Analysis from the 2011 election shows that the influence of district magnitude on female candidacies is party specific (see table below). Of the three largest parties, Fine Gael conformed closest to the expectations of the literature. As district magnitude increases, the percentage of female candidates increases significantly. They comprised of just 9% of Fine Gael candidates in 3-seat constituencies, yet 15% and 22% in 4 and 5-seat constituencies respectively. Women selected by Fianna Fáil were more evenly spread throughout the various constituency sizes, although they did make up a slightly higher percentage of their candidates in 4 and 5-seat constituencies. Half all Labour women candidates ran in 4-seat constituencies, making up 31% of those candidates, while females actually comprised of a higher percentage of their candidates in 3-seat (26%) as opposed to 5-seat constituencies (20%). Green Party women candidates were more likely to contest 3-seat constituencies. Constituency size appears to have played a factor in Sinn Féin’s candidacy strategy, with women making up a considerably lower percentage of their candidates in 3-seat constituencies (7%) as opposed to 5-seat constituencies (36%).

Party

3-seat

4-seat

5-seat

Total women candidates

Fianna Fáil

3 (12%)

4 (15%)

4 (17%)

11 (15%)

Fine Gael

3 (9%)

5 (15%)

8 (22%)

16 (15%)

Labour

5 (26%)

9 (31%)

4 (20%)

18 (26%)

Sinn Féin

1 (7%)

2 (17%)

5 (36%)

8 (19%)

Greens

4 (23%)

2 (13%)

2 (18%)

8 (19%)

The most gender-balanced constituencies for women party candidates were Dun Laoghaire (4 seats), Dublin Central (4 seats), Tipperary North (3 seats), Mayo (5 seats) and Longford-Westmeath (4 seats). Of the nine constituencies in which no women were selected to run for any of the five main parties, six of these had three seats and just one had five seats (Wexford).  

Overall, women accounted for 14% of party candidates in constituencies with 3 seats, 19% of those with 4 seats and 22% of those with 5 seats. This may imply that proposals for larger Dáil constituencies, as suggested by the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (2010), may further encourage the selection of women candidates on party tickets.

Advertisements

About Claire McGing

PhD student with interests in gender politics, electoral geography, candidate selection and political reform.
This entry was posted in Candidates, Constituency information, Election boundaries, Gender and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gender, Candidate Selection and Constituency Size in the 2011 General Election

  1. Pingback: Gender, Candidate Selection and Constituency Size in the 2011 … | Gender Selection Web

  2. Pingback: Gender, Candidate Selection and Constituency Size in the 2011 … | Gender Selection Web

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s