Øyvind Skorge

Øyvind (Ovi) Skorge, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Petitions and the electoral mobilization of women

Working paper

Can large-scale petitions spur the turnout of individuals on the fringes of the political system? Despite the achievement of suffrage rights in the early 20th century, women’s electoral participation continued to lag that of men. I argue that mass petitions reduces the social costs of participating, educates citizens reached by petition canvassing, and confer activists with organizational skills and networks. Empirically, I analyze an original data set containing 279,898 petition signatures from Norwegian women in 1905. The signatures were collected to make up for women’s exclusion from the official referendum on independence from Sweden the same year. By calculating the share of adult women who signed the petition in each of the 633 municipalities, I find that the petition activity is tightly linked to increases in women’s electoral turnout. Mass petitions thus helped reducing the vast gender disparities in electoral participation during the early part of the 20th century.

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