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Divining Disposition: The Role of Elite Beliefs and Gender Narratives in Women's Suffrage

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Most accounts of franchise extension hold that elites extend electoral rights when they believe expansions will consolidate their political power. Yet, how do elites come to believe this? And how do elites make inferences about the political preferences of the disenfranchised? I argue that elites utilize the cue of "disposition" to determine the consequences of enfranchisement. Disposition refers to the innate characteristics of an individual (or group) that are believed to shape behavior and decision-making. Importantly, because disposition is perceived to be intrinsic, elites assume it is more stable and permanent than party identification or policy preferences. Using historical process-tracing and discourse analysis of primary documents, I determine that disposition was frequently and repeatedly used to either support or oppose women's enfranchisement in New Zealand.
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Keywords: DEMOCRATIZATION; ENFRANCHISEMENT; FRANCHISE EXTENSION; NEW ZEALAND; POLITICS; SUFFRAGE; WOMEN

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2020

This article was made available online on February 17, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Divining Disposition: The Role of Elite Beliefs and Gender Narratives in Women’s Suffrage".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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