Geography and the Gender Gap: Evidence Against the Traditional Vote Hypothesis from Post-Suffrage Sweden


Dawn Langan Teele, University of Pennsylvania

Date and Time

April 1, 2021 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM


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Online via Zoom

In many countries around the world, women's enfranchisement marked the single largest expansion in the eligible electorate. In Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany, the electorate more than doubled once women could vote, while in countries that rolled out women's suffrage gradually, such as the UK and Norway, even the second smaller reforms saw the electorate grow by more than a third. The sheer size of the expansion had the potential to transform electoral politics, a prospect that provoked optimism and fear alike: for those who fought for women’s suffrage, the victory brought legitimacy and new beginnings; yet for those who fought against, the reform heralded instability. Did women's suffrage transform electoral politics for good or for bad? Did it increase electoral instability? Did women favor particular parties?

Prominent theories of post-suffrage politics suggest either that women would vote conservatively, or that women's voting power would be vitiated by their reluctance to turn out. Leveraging fine grained municipal level data from Sweden, which includes turnout figures separated by sex, to examine the impact of women's suffrage on electoral politics, we argue that the geography of the gender gap, both in terms of turnout and vote choice, jointly determine the impact of women's votes. Using three methods to estimate the gender vote gap, we find that in cities, women were slightly more likely to vote for the left than men. Although women turned out at lower rates than men overall, their concentration in cities produced a national gender vote gap for the left. These findings, which highlight how diversity among women and electoral geography produce electoral outcomes, complicate longstanding theories about the "traditional" gender voting gap.


Dawn Teele
Dr. Dawn Teele holds a B.A. in Economics from Reed College, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn she was a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics. Dr. Teele's research has been published in a variety of outlets in political science, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, and Politics & Society. She is editor of a volume on social science methodology, Field Experiments and Their Critics  (Yale University Press 2014), and co-editor of Good Reasons to Run: Women and Political Candidacy (Temple University Press 2020). In 2018, Princeton University Press published her book Forging the Franchise: The Political Origins of the Women’s Vote which won the Luebbert Prize for the best book in Comparative Politics from the American Political Science Association.

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