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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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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