The Electoral Impact of Newly Enfranchised Groups: The Case of Women's Suffrage in the United States.

Morgan-Collins, Mona. The Journal of Politics

In this job market paper, I examine whether the expansion of women’s suffrage in the United States made a dent in electoral politics. I theorize that while women’s suffrage has the potential to sway electoral and policy tides in favor of the newly enfranchised, such effects are conditional on the strength of a social movement that represents women’s interests. A social movement defines the groups’ shared interests and helps to create an active, informed and mobilized pool of voters that can take electoral action to foster the groups’ shared policy goals. In testing this argument, I use evidence from the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment in the United States and employ a difference-in-differences approach that exploits the heterogeneity in the proportion of women across counties. I find strong support for the main argument. In places where suffrage movement was strong (i) newly enfranchised women successfully coordinated against the most conservative incumbents, who lost significant electoral support and (ii) conservative incumbents shifted to a more pro-women progressive position in the following Congress. These findings have important implications for the study of policy representation of marginalized groups, where formal inclusion of marginalized groups may not be sufficient to secure their ‘de facto’ policy and electoral representation. 

Return to Home page

Return to Research page