Romney’s “Binders” Comment Puts UMass Boston Study in Spotlight

October 18, 2012

Zach Herman


A five-year-old study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston has gone viral after an offhand remark by Mitt Romney during Tuesday’s presidential debate.

The former Massachusetts governor sparked an Internet firestorm with his response to a town-hall question on pay equity for women. Romney said his administration actively sought women to fill key positions in state government. The resumes came pouring in, he said, and soon Massachusetts had “binders full of women” applying for top jobs.

David Bernstein, a political reporter for The Phoenix, refuted Romney’s claims on his blog just minutes after the debate. As evidence, Bernstein cited his own reporting, as well as a 2007 study by UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy (CWPPP). Read the study here.

The number of women in appointed senior-level positions was lower when Romney left office than it was when he took over in 2003, the study found. At the time, Massachusetts ranked 22nd in the nation in “women's overall share of top executive, legislative, and judicial posts.”

With the hashtag #bindersfullofwomen trending on Twitter and political analysts dissecting Romney’s comment, the CWPPP study quickly became a popular download on the web. 

The University Archives & Special Collections department at the Joseph P. Healey Library did the math. They found that the study, hosted on UMass Boston’s ScholarWorks page, was downloaded 44 times in August and September – less than once per day. In October, the same report has been downloaded 3,518 times – more than 195 times a day.

In addition, major media outlets have come calling for UMass Boston’s expertise. CWPPP senior scholar Carol Hardy-Fanta has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail Online, and more to comment on Romney’s record. The study has also been cited by CNN, CBS News, and other outlets.