Explaining the gender gap in radical right voting: A cross-national investigation in 12 Western European countries


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.

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  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    More EVS information is available on the Website:

  3. 3.

    ‘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.

  4. 4.

    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.

  5. 5.

    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.

  6. 6.

    Religion has been introduced as explanatory factor for gender differences in voting behaviour (for example, Studlar et al, 1998). However, Rippeyoung (2007) showed that religiosity cannot explain the gender gap in radical right voting, which made us decide to include it as a control variable.

  7. 7.

    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.

  8. 8.

    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.

  9. 9.

    The country-specific descriptive results are not shown here but are available upon request.


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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).

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Correspondence to Tim Immerzeel.



Table A1

Table A1 Overview reliability scale and country data

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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).

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  • radical right
  • gender
  • cross-national
  • party characteristics