It is common wisdom in radical right research that men are over-represented among the radical right electorate. We explore whether a radical right gender gap exists across 12 Western European countries and examine how this gap may be explained. Using the European Values Study (2010), we find a radical right gender gap that remains substantial after controlling for socioeconomic and political characteristics. However, our results indicate strong cross-national variation in the size of the gap. Explanations for these differences are explored by looking at the outsider image and the populist discourse style of the radical right parties, which are hypothesised to keep women from voting for the radical right. Our results do not confirm this expectation: differences in party characteristics do not account for cross-national differences in the gender gap. Implications of these findings and suggestions for further research are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
One could argue that as ‘modernisation losers’, men are more dissatisfied with the established parties and are therefore more likely to vote for an anti-establishment party (cf. Betz, 1994). However, amongst others, Coffé and Bolzendahl (2010) have shown that women are less satisfied with political institutions than men. Hence, political dissatisfaction cannot explain the gender gap in radical right voting. We performed additional analyses including a measure of political dissatisfaction (results not shown, but available upon request). The results of these analyses were similar to those presented here. Hence, we excluded this variable from our analyses.
More EVS information is available on the Website: info1.gesis.org/EVS/Studies/.
‘Radical right voting’ draws on the expected vote rather than the actual vote. In the 2008 wave of the European Social Survey (ESS, 2010), respondents did indicate their actual vote. The number of RRP-voters is highly similar in both data sets.
We are aware that Oesch’s occupational scale does not perfectly represent a sector scale. However, because the argument is mainly about industries where people perform manual work, we see the operationalisation of Oesch as most appropriate, given the information available in the EVS survey.
Nativism also addresses a preference for the native. Because of the lack of good measures for nationalistic attitudes, we performed additional analyses with strict attitudes towards citizenship. Including this scale did not, however, change our main conclusions, and we therefore excluded this variable from our analyses. The results are available upon request.
Mayer (2002) does find a significant gender gap in radical right voting in France. However, in the ESS (2010), we find nearly the same percentage of men (2.7 per cent) and women (2.3 per cent) having voted for RRPs. In earlier waves of the ESS, we do find gender gaps in France. Hence, the year 2008 seems exceptional for France in that there is no significant gender gap in radical right voting.
To obtain the standardised effect, we use the formula e (b-coefficient*SD) for a positive b-coefficient and the formula 1−e (b-coefficient*SD) for a negative b-coefficient.
The country-specific descriptive results are not shown here but are available upon request.
Abramson, P. and Inglehart, R. (1995) Value Change in Global Perspective. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Arter, D. (2010) The breakthrough of another West European populist radical right party? The case of the True Finns. Government and Opposition 45 (4): 484–504.
Betz, H. (1994) Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. New York: St Martin’s.
Burns, N. (2007) Gender in the aggregate, gender in the individual, gender and political action. Politics & Gender 3 (1): 104–124.
Coffé, H. (2005) Extreem rechts in Vlaanderen en Wallonië. Roeselare, Belgium: Roularta Books.
Coffé, H. and Bolzendahl, C. (2010) Same game, different rules? Gender differences in political participation. Sex Roles 62 (5–6): 318–333.
Dalton, R.J. (2008) Citizenship norms and the expansion of political participation. Political Studies 56 (1): 76–98.
ESS. (2010) European social survey wave 4 (edn. 3.0), http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/, accessed 20 December 2011.
European Values Study (EVS) (2010) European Values Study 2008 4th wave, integrated dataset, ZA4800 data file version 2.0.0. Retrieved 20 June 2011, from: Cologne, Germany: GESIS Data Archive.
Fennema, M. (2005) Populist parties of the right. In: J. Rydgren (ed.) Movements of Exclusion: Radical Right-Wing Populism in the Western World. Hauppage, NY: Nova Science, pp. 1–24.
Fontana, M., Sidler, A. and Hardmeier, S. (2006) The ‘New Right’ vote: An analysis of the gender gap in the vote choice for SVP. Swiss Political Science Review 12 (4): 243–271.
Ganzeboom, H.B.G. and Treiman, D.J. (1996) Internationally comparable measures of occupational status for the 1988 International Standard Classification of Occupations. Social Science Research 25: 201–239.
Gidengil, E., Hennigar, M., Blais, A. and Nevitte, N. (2005) Explaining the gender gap in support for the new right: The case of Canada. Comparative Political Studies 38 (10): 1171–1195.
Gilens, M. (1988) Gender and support for Reagan: A comprehensive model of presidential approval. American Journal of Political Science 32 (1): 19–49.
Gilligan, C. (1982) In a Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Givens, T.E. (2004) The radical right gender gap. Comparative Political Studies 37 (1): 30–54.
Güveli, A., Need, A. and De Graaf, N.D. (2007) Socio-political, cultural, and economic preferences and behaviour of the social and cultural specialists and the technocrats. Social class or education? Social Indicators Research 81 (3): 597–631.
Hox, J. (2002) Multilevel Analysis: Techniques and Applications. London: Lawrence Elbaum Ass.
Huddy, L. and Terkildsen, N. (1993) Gender stereotypes and the perception of male and female candidates. American Journal of Political Science 37 (1): 119–147.
Ignazi, P. (2003) Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Immerzeel, T., Lubbers, M. and Coffé, H. (2011) Expert Judgement Survey of European Political Parties 2010. Utrecht, the Netherlands: NWO, Department of Sociology, Utrecht University.
Inglehart, R. and Norris, P. (2000) The developmental theory of the gender gap: Women and men’s voting behaviour in global perspective. International Political Science Review 21 (4): 441–462.
Inglehart, R. and Norris, P. (2003) Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kaufmann, K.M. and Petrocik, J.R. (1999) The changing politics of American men: Understanding the sources of the gender gap. American Journal of Political Science 43 (3): 864–887.
Kitschelt, H. (1995) The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Lubbers, M., Gijsberts, M. and Scheepers, P. (2002) Extreme right-wing voting in Western Europe. European Journal of Political Research 41 (3): 345–378.
Mayer, N. (2002) Ces Français qui votent Le Pen. Saint-Amand-Montrond, France: Flammarion.
Moors, H., Balogh, L., van Donselaar, J. and De Graaff, B. (2009) Polarisatie en radicalisering in Nederland. Tilburg, the Netherlands: IVA Beleidsonderzoek en advies.
Mudde, C. (2007) Populist Radical Right Parties. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Naidoo, L.J. and Lord, R.G. (2008) Speech imagery amd perceptions of charisma: The mediating role of positive affect. The Leadership Quarterly 19 (3): 283–296.
Norris, P. (2005) Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Oesch, D. (2008) Explaining workers’ support for right-wing populist parties in Western Europe: Evidence from Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, and Switzerland. International Political Science Review 29 (3): 349–373.
Olzak, S. (1992) Dynamics of Ethnic Competition and Conflict. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Papadopoulos, Y. (2002) National Populism in Western Europe: An Ambivalent Phenomenon. Lausanne, Switzerland: Institut d’Études Politiques et Internationales.
Rink, N., Phalet, K. and Swyngedouw, M. (2009) The effects of immigrant population size, unemployment and individual characteristics on voting for the Vlaams Blok in Flanders 1991–1999. European Sociological Review 25 (4): 411–424.
Rippeyoung, P.L.F. (2007) When women are right: The influence of gender, work and values on European far-right party support. International Feminist Journal of Politics 9 (3): 379–397.
Roth, D. (1989) Sind die Republikaner die fünfte Partei? Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 41–42 (89): 10–20.
Rydgren, J. (2007) The sociology of the radical right. Annual Review of Sociology 33: 241–262.
Schneider, S.L. (2008) Anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe: Outgroup size and perceived ethnic threat. European Sociological Review 24 (1): 53–67.
Studlar, D.T., McAllister, I. and Hayes, B.C. (1998) Explaining the gender gap in voting: A cross-national analysis. Social Science Quarterly 79 (4): 779–798.
Tannen, D. (1990) You Just Don’t Understand. Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Morrow.
The research presented in this article is part of the project ‘Mobilizing “the People”? Populist Radical Right Parties and The Active Citizen’, funded by the NWO Graduate Training Program Grant (2008/2009) awarded to the research school Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS).
About this article
Cite this article
Immerzeel, T., Coffé, H. & van der Lippe, T. Explaining the gender gap in radical right voting: A cross-national investigation in 12 Western European countries. Comp Eur Polit 13, 263–286 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2013.20
- radical right
- party characteristics