Political competition, infraestructure and female voting during the Second Republic (1931-1936): the case of Catalonia  [VOTREP]

Funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, R+D ‘Excellence Projects’ CSO2014-59191-P

Members: Jordi Muñoz, Francesc Amat, Antoni Rodon, Carles Boix

Research Assistants: Pau Vall, Rosa Canal, Irene Cecotti

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This project aims at collecting, digitalizing and analyzing data on election results at the minimum level of aggregation for the period 1931-1936 in Catalonia. Building a complete dataset on electoral results at the local or district level, together with individual-level information from census registers will become a highly valuable resource that, upon completion of the project, will be available to the academic community. These data have been so far only partially collected and analyzed, but a thorough analysis can shed light on some highly relevant theoretical debates on the development of democratic politics and electoral behavior in general.  Within the scope of the project, we are working on the following papers:


Full democratization and the extension of the franchise to low-income, illiterate populations was historically followed by a drop in turnout, pointing to the difficulty of making voting rights truly effective. Political parties had to develop powerful electoral machines and tap into existing social networks to bring citizens to the polls. In this paper we explore that process in the context of 1930s Barcelona, taking advantage of a unique panel data set of official registers that include individualized information on turnout as well as other personal characteristics (such as age, gender, address, literacy and occupation) of almost 25,000 electors for two elections in Spain’s Second Republic (1934 and 1936), and matching individual voting roll-calls with relevant precinct-level socio-economic, political and geographical data. We show that voting (particularly among unskilled, left-leaning voters) was driven by the direct mobilizational strategies developed by political parties and those social organizations (such as trade unions) that encompassed an important part of society and often acted in tandem with party machines – to that effect we exploit the short-term change in anarchist trade union’s electoral strategies. We also show that voters were mobilized indirectly – through the social networks in which they were embedded. Partisan and organizational resources and strategies were especially important for previously abstentionist unskilled workers and in heavily working-class neighborhoods.


The idea that women were to vote less than men when they got the right to vote is widely shared. According to most of the available evidence, that was indeed the case albeit in varying proportions. However, often these figures are based on simple comparisons of turnout rates between the pre and post female enfranchisement elections. Much less is known, however, about the root causes of female political participation upon formal electoral enfranchisement. This article analyses the effect of female enfranchisement during the Spanish Second Republic (1931-1939). Specifically, we exploit a unique individual level panel data set of official registers that include individualized information on turnout (from individual voting roll-calls) as well as other personal characteristics, such as age, address, gender, literacy and occupation, for three elections between 1931 and 1936 (from official registers in the electoral census). First, we analyze whether female participation was conditional upon individual female resources – by exploring at a descriptive level the effects of age, literacy and female working status. Second, we explore the effects of women labour market participation, employing micro level data about female labour participation and official registers about textile industry at the municipality level. Third, we also exploit detailed information about labour conflicts at the firm level between 1906 and 1931 to investigate the formation of women ideology and its effects on electoral participation. Finally, we also examine the conventional wisdom that female enfranchisement increased the conservative support, focusing on the role played by the Catholic Church on exacerbating or mitigating the gender gap. Overall, this paper contributes to our understanding of the causes of female political participation upon formal enfranchisement by exploiting rich individual-level data from a unique historical period of democratization and extension of women suffrage.