Thermostasis and Modern Sexism

This paper (with Angie Torres-Beltran) presents evidence that Americans’ gender attitudes (across a variety of measures) became discontinuously more conservative after the 2020 Elections. This paper is under review.

To make these claims, we draw on scholarship on modern sexism, public opinion on gender attitudes, and research into political parties’ positioning on gender equality, to theorize why elections should inspire thermostatic effects on gender attitudes.

We present evidence that respondent’s attitudes towards women’s equality worsened and their perceptions of discrimination against women reduced immediately after the 2020 Elections. These findings present evidence that Americans situate their understandings about the positioning of social groups by which party takes power. This, paradoxically, constrains the organizing power of marginalized groups: their political successes reduce Americans’ perceptions of barriers against them.


Respondents’ average reports of modern sexism and their mean levels of perceived discrimination against women decreased after the 2020 Elections, with the change consolidating strongly in the subsequent weeks.

Colin Cepuran Written by:

Colin Cepuran is a political scientist and a policy analyst working in Kalamazoo, MI.