Acta Politica

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 544–573 | Cite as

Why lower educated people are more likely to cast their vote for radical right parties: Testing alternative explanations in The Netherlands

  • Michael SavelkoulEmail author
  • Peer Scheepers
Original Article


We address the relationship between educational attainment and radical right voting (i.e., voting for the PVV) in the Netherlands. We tested whether lower educated people are overrepresented among the electorate of the PVV – as often found in earlier research – and considered underlying explanations for this relationship. Using data derived from the Religion in Dutch Society (SOCON, 2011/2012) survey, we were able to empirically test a set of innovative mediators (e.g., interethnic contact, euroscepticism, associational involvement and social trust) simultaneously next to theoretically well-established mediators (e.g., perceived ethnic threat, nationalistic attitudes and authoritarianism). Our results indicated that lower educated people are more likely to cast their vote for the PVV than higher educated people, due to their level of perceived ethnic threat, anti-Muslim attitudes and authoritarianism. Using bootstrapping, only ethnic threat perceptions turned out to significantly mediate the relationship between educational attainment and radical right voting, ruling out many other explanations. Our findings underline the importance of precluding spurious influences when addressing radical right voting and show that radical right parties’ emphasis on the economic and cultural threats that immigrants would pose for Western societies seems to bear fruit in terms of mobilizing lower educated people, at least among the Dutch electorate.


educational attainment radical right voting The Netherlands explanatory mechanisms perceived ethnic threat 


  1. Adorno, T., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D., et al (1950). The Authoritarian Personality. London/New York: Norton and Company.Google Scholar
  2. Allport, G. W. (1979 [1954]). The Nature of Prejudice. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arzheimer, K. and Carter, E. (2006). Political Opportunity Structures and Right-wing Extremist Party Success. European Journal of Political Research, 45(3), 419–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Betz, H. G. (1993). The New Politics of Resentment: Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe. Comparative Politics, 25(4), 413–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Betz, H. G. (1994). Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. London: MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biggs, M. and Knauss, S. (2012). Explaining Membership in the British National Party: A Multilevel Analysis of Contact and Threat. European Sociological Review, 28(5), 633–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Billiet, J. and De Witte, H. (2001). Wie Stemde in Juni 1999 voor het Vlaams Blok en Waarom? Tijdschrift voor Sociologie, 22(1), 5–35.Google Scholar
  8. Blalock, H. M. (1967). Toward a Theory of Minority Group Relations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  9. Bobo, L. D. (1999). Prejudice as Group Position: Microfoundations of a Sociological Approach to Racism and Race Relations. Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 445–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coenders, M., Gijsberts, M., Hagendoorn, L. and Scheepers, P. (2004). Introduction. In M. Gijsberts, L. Hagendoorn and P. Scheepers (Eds.), Nationalism and Exclusion of Migrants: Cross-national Comparisons (pp. 1–25). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  11. Coenders, M. and Scheepers, P. (2003). The Effect of Education on Nationalism and Ethnic Exclusionism: An International Comparison. Political Psychology, 24(2), 313–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coffé, H. (2002). De Invloed van de Levensbeschouwelijke en Maatschappelijke Betrokkenheid op een Positieve Beoordeling van het Vlaams Blok. Tijdschrift voor Sociologie, 23(2), 161–192.Google Scholar
  13. Cole, R. L. (1973). Toward a Model of Political Trust: A Causal Analysis. American Journal of Political Science, 17(4), 809–817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coser, L. A. (1956). The Function of Social Conflict. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dinas, E. and Van Spanje, J. (2011). Crime Story: The Role of Crime and Immigration in the Anti-immigrant Vote. Electoral Studies, 30(4), 658–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eisinga, R., Kraaykamp, G., Scheepers, P. and Thijs, P. (2012) Religion in Dutch society 2011-2012. DANS Data Guide 11. Amsterdam: Pallas Publications.Google Scholar
  17. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance [ECRI]. (2008). Third Report on the Netherlands. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.Google Scholar
  18. Evans, J. (2005). The Dynamics of Social Change in Radical Right-Wing Populist Party Support. Comparative European Politics, 3(1), 76–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ford, R. and Goodwin, M. J. (2010). Angry White Men: Individual and Contextual Predictors of Support for the British National Party. Political Studies, 58(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gabennesch, H. (1972). Authoritarianism as World View. The American Journal of Sociology, 77(5), 857–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Green, E. G. T., Sarrasin, O., Baur, R. and Fasel, N. (2016). From Stigmatized Immigrants to Radical Right Voting: A Multilevel Study on the Role of Threat and Contact. Political Psychology, 37(4), 465–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gurr, R. (1970). Why Men Rebel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hakhverdian, A., Van Elsas, E., Van der Brug, W. and Kuhn, T. (2013). Euroscepticism and Education: A Longitudinal Study of 12 EU Member States, 1973–2010. European Union Politics, 14(4), 522–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hello, E., Scheepers, P. and Gijsberts, M. (2002). Education and Ethnic Prejudice in Europe: Explanations for Cross-National Variances in the Educational Effect on Ethnic Prejudice. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 46(1), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hjerm, M. (2001). Education, Xenophobia and Nationalism: A Comparative Analysis. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27(1), 37–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hooghe, L., Bakker, R., Brigevich, A., De Vries, C., Edwards, E., Marks, G., et al (2010). Reliability and Validity of Measuring Party Positions: The Chapel Hill Expert Surveys of 2002 and 2006. European Journal of Political Research, 49(5), 684–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Immerzeel, T., Lubbers, M. and Coffé, H. (2011). Expert Judgement Survey of European Political Parties. Utrecht, The Netherlands: NWO, Department of Sociology, Utrecht University.Google Scholar
  28. Ivarsflaten, E. (2005). The Vulnerable Populist Right Parties: No Economic Realignment Fuelling Their Electoral Success. European Journal of Political Research, 44(3), 465–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ivarsflaten, E. and Stubager, R. (2013). Voting for the Populist Radical Right in Western Europe. The Role of Education. In J. Rydgren (Ed.), Class Politics and the Radical Right (pp. 122–137). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Kessler, A. E. and Freeman, G. P. (2005). Support for Extreme Right-Wing Parties in Western Europe: Individual Attributes, Political Attitudes, and National Context. Comparative European Politics, 3(3), 261–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kitschelt, H. (1995). The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kitschelt, H. (2007). Review Article: Growth and Persistence of the Radical Right in Postindustrial Democracies: Advances and Challenges in Comparative Research. West European Politics, 30(5), 1176–1206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lipset S (1981 [1960]) Political Man. The Social Bases of Politics. Expanded and Updated Edition. Baltimore: University Press [1960: New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.].Google Scholar
  34. Lubbers, M., Gijsberts, M. and Scheepers, P. (2002). Extreme Right-Wing Voting in Western Europe. European Journal of Political Research, 41(3), 345–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lubbers, M. and Scheepers, P. (2000) Individual and Contextual Characteristics of the German Extreme Right-wing Vote in the. (1990). A Test of Complementary Theories. European Journal of Political Research, 38(1), 63–94.Google Scholar
  36. Lubbers, M. and Scheepers, P. (2007). Explanations of Political Euroscepticism at the Individual. Regional and National Levels. European Societies, 9(4), 643–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lubbers, M., Scheepers, P. and Billiet, J. (2000). Multilevel Modelling of Vlaams Blok Voting: Individual and Contextual Characteristics of the Vlaams Blok Vote. Acta Politica, 35(4), 363–398.Google Scholar
  38. Mayer, N. and Perrineau, P. (1992). Why Do They Vote for Le Pen? European Journal of Political Research, 22(1), 123–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Meyer, D. S. (2004). Protest and Political Opportunities. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 125–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mood, C. (2010). Logistic Regression: Why We Cannot Do What We Think We Can Do, and What We Can Do About It. European Sociological Review, 26(1), 67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mudde, C. (2007). Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Norris, P. (2005). Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pettigrew, T. F. and Tropp, L. R. (2011). When Groups Meet: The Dynamics of Intergroup Contact. New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  44. Pettigrew, T. F., Wagner, U. and Christ, O. (2010). Population Ratios and Prejudice: Modelling both Contact and Threat Effects. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(4), 635–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Preacher, K. J. and Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and Resampling Strategies for Assessing and Comparing Indirect Effects in Multiple Mediator Models. Behavior Research Models, 40(3), 879–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Putnam, R. D. (1995). Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America. Political Science and Politics, 28(4), 664–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone. The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  49. Rothstein, B. Stolle, D. (2008). The State and Social Capital. An Institutional Theory of Generalized Trust. Comparative Politics, 40(4), 441–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Runciman, W. G. (1966). Relative Deprivation and Social Justice. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  51. Rydgren, J. (2007). The Sociology of the Radical Right. Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 241–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rydgren, J. (2008). Immigration Sceptics, Xenophobes or Racists? Radical Right-Wing Voting in Six West European Countries. European Journal of Political Research, 47(6), 737–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rydgren, J. (2009). Social Isolation? Social Capital and Radical Right-wing Voting in Western Europe. Journal of Civil Society, 5(2), 129–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Savelkoul, M., Tolsma, J. Scheepers, P. (2015). Explaining Natives’ Interethnic Friendship and Contact with Colleagues in European Regions. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(5), 683–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scheepers, P., Felling, A. Peters, J. (1990). Social Conditions, Authoritarianism and Ethnocentrism: A Theoretical Model of the Early Frankfurt School Updated and Tested. European Sociological Review, 6(1), 15–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Scheepers, P., Gijsberts, M. Coenders, M. (2002). Ethnic Exclusionism in European Countries: Public Opposition to Civil Rights for Legal Migrants as a Response to Perceived Ethnic Threat. European Sociological Review, 18(1), 17–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schlueter, E. Wagner, U. (2008). Regional Differences Matter: Examining the Dual Influence of the Regional Size of the Immigrant Population on Derogation of Immigrants in Europe. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 49(2–3), 153–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schneider, S. L. (2008). Anti-Immigrant Attitudes in Europe: Outgroup Size and Perceived Ethnic Threat. European Sociological Research, 24(1), 53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schoon, I., Cheng, H., Gale, C. R., Batty, G. D. Deary, I. J. (2010). Social Status, Cognitive Ability, and Educational Attainment as Predictors of Liberal Social Attitudes and Political Trust. Intelligence, 38(1), 144–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stockemer, D. (2015). Structural Data on Immigration or Immigration Perceptions? What Accounts for the Electoral Success of the Radical Right in Europe? Journal of Common Market Studies, 54(4), 999–1016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Van der Brug, W., Fennema, M. Tillie, J. (2005). Why Some Anti-Immigrant Parties Fail and Others Succeed: A Two-Step Model of Aggregate Electoral Support. Comparative Political Studies, 38(5), 537–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Van Der Meer, T. Van Ingen, E. (2009). Schools of Democracy? Disentangling the Relationship Between Civic Participation and Political Action in 17 European Countries. European Journal of Political Research, 48(2), 281–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Van der Paauw, M. and Flache, A. (2012) Lokale Concentratie van Allochtonen en Steun aan de PVV. Het Effect van het Percentage Niet-westerse Allochtonen op het Percentage PVV-stemmen, in 246 Gemeenten in 2006. Mens & Maatschappij 87(4): 371–394.Google Scholar
  64. Van der Waal, J., de Koster, W. Achterberg, P. (2013). Ethnic Segregation and Radical Right- Wing Voting in Dutch Cities. Urban Affairs Review, 49(5), 748–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Van Gent, W. P. C., Jansen, E. F. Smits, J. H. F. (2014). Right-wing Radical Populism in City and Suburbs: An Electoral Geography of the Partij Voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands. Urban Studies, 51(9), 1775–1794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Werts, H., Scheepers, P. Lubbers, M. (2012). Euro-scepticism and radical right-wing voting in Europe, 2002–2008: Social cleavages, socio-political attitudes and contextual characteristics determining voting for the radical right. European Union Politics 14(2): 183–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wilson, J. (2000) Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 215–240.Google Scholar
  68. Zaslove, A. (2004). The Dark Side of European Politics: Unmasking the Radical Right. Journal of European Integration, 26(1), 61–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations