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Political Context and the Turnout of New Women Voters after Suffrage


J. Kevin Corder is professor of political science, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

Christina Wolbrecht is associate professor of political science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.


Many observers expected new women voters to respond to their political context in distinctive ways. Some scholars anticipated that newly-enfranchised women—lacking political interest and experience—would be volatile and highly responsive to context. Others expected political isolation and norms proscribing political activity would insulate women from political stimuli. We test these competing predictions with a Bayesian approach to ecological inference and a unique set of aggregate data. We find that the responsiveness of women's turnout is strikingly similar to that of men. However, the lesser impact of electoral competition, and the greater effect of electoral laws and prior suffrage activism, suggest that the experience of and response to disenfranchisement shaped women's turnout after the vote was won.