Those Bernie Bros who would rather vote for Trump than Hillary may seem like rare outliers. But according to a new study in Political Behavior, they reflect a larger pattern regarding sexism and voting decisions. A shocking number of people would actually support the opposing party if their own party's candidate is a woman.
Iowa State University professor Tessa Ditonto presented people with a fictional election in two separate experiments. In the first, 449 people had to cast fake votes in a primary and general election. They found that fortunately, women's competence was more important than their gender when people were deciding whether to vote for them, though it should be noted that the majority of the respondents were female Democrats.
The second study was not so heartening. After providing 377 people with information regarding candidates' gender and competence, Ditonto found that people would rather vote for another party than vote for women who were incompetent, while they'd stick to their own party if the candidate was an incompetent man.
"In general, evaluations of women seem to be influenced much more by information related to their competence than are evaluations of men," the paper reads. In other words, if a man's perceived as incompetent, it slides. But if a woman is, it costs her votes. (What's more, previous studies suggest people are more likely to perceive a woman as incompetent even if her male competitor is no different.)
"The combination of a female candidate whose competence has been cast into doubt is such a potent combination of cues, that it can even trump voters' party identification," Ditonto said in a press release. (Personally, I'm wondering if that "trump" pun was intentional.) "This was pretty unexpected, since party affiliation is almost always the strongest predictor of someone's vote choice," she added.
While they're the minority, there's a notable population of Democrats committed to voting for Trump. Two Democratic electoral college members in Washington are currently considering supporting the Republican candidate, with one saying he'll vote for Trump no matter what his constituency wants and another remaining undecided. The Facebook group Democrats for Trump has over 10,000 likes.
There's even a name for Democratic Trump supporters: "Trumpocrats." "Hillary Clinton is talking about Planned Parenthood or whatever — which is all great, but that’s not what we need. We need people to be self-sufficient and feed their families. Trump speaks to that," Trumpocrats PAC executive director Christian Rickers told the conservative site Breitbart. "It’s a huge ABC feeling out here, Anybody But Clinton," Trumpocrat David Saunders told Fox.
Then, of course, there are the Bernie Bros who so prefer Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton that they'll vote for Trump instead even though Bernie has endorsed Hillary and urged people to make sure Trump doesn't win. Bernie Bros for Trump also have their own Facebook group, with 762 members. "For the last few days, I’ve been reading emails from Bernie Sanders supporters who are thinking about voting for Donald Trump in the general election," Conor Friedesdorf wrote in The Atlantic in June. Characteristic of them is the "progressive who would love to see the fruition of the Sanders revolution, but disdains Hillary Clinton so much that he can’t imagine voting for her."
While it's hard to say when these decisions are due to sexism, this study proves it likely at least plays a role. As we've seen with Trump and Clinton, people will forgive mistake after mistake committed by male politicians, whereas just one mishap can cost a woman the vote.