The Myth of the Traditional Gender Gap

Dawn Teele, SNF Agora Institute Associate Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
Encina Hall West, Room 400

In rich democracies today, women are much less supportive of conservative parties than men. Yet for most of the twentieth century, politicians, pundits and scholars believed that family life and religiosity tied women to conservative causes and parties. Scholarship has cast doubt on the “traditional” gender gap hypothesis, but has done so in cases where electorate-wide shifts to the left make it least likely that a conservative gender gap would emerge. This paper tests the hypothesis in a hard case: Quebec, a Catholic province of Canada that experienced a dramatic shift to the right after suffrage. Using census data and constituency-level provincial electoral results from 1935 to 1944, we show that female enfranchisement in Quebec did not result in greater support for the conservative party. Our results bolster claims about the inapplicability of the “traditional" gender gap thesis, even in regions where this theory would be most expected to hold.


Dawn Teele is an SNF Agora Institute Associate Professor of Political Science. Her research interests include women and politics specifically related the causes and consequences of voting rights reform; candidate socialization, recruitment, and election; incumbency and gender; democratization and economic development; methodology and field experiments.

Teele has won several prizes, including the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for the study of women in politics and the Gabriel Almond Prize from the American Political Science Association. Her 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 an edited volume that is currently in progress, Good Reasons to Run: Women and Political Candidacy. In 2020, Professor Teele won the Gregory Luebbert prize for the best book in Comparative Politics, from the American Political Science Association for Forging the Franchise: The Political Origins of the Women’s Vote (Princeton University Press, 2018).

She holds a BA in economics from Reed College, and a PhD in political science from Yale University.