Research

The Gender Gap in the Past.

How does electoral reform influence the fortunes of political parties? This paper examines the effect of introducing female voters in five of the first countries to enfranchise women – Norway, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Drawing on historical tracts and theories of the political economy of the household, we argue that high female labor force participation and the robust women’s movement in the early twentieth century should have spurred a left gender voting gap. Using original sub-national datasets coded from archival sources and two methods for uncovering the gender gap, we report a remarkable finding that in four of six reforms women’s enfranchisement boosted support for Liberal and Labour parties. These results contradict both the “traditional” voting gap thesis – which sees women as conservative voters prior to the 1970s, and the “double the vote” hypothesis – which suggests that female voters would merely replicate the vote shares for each party.

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