Jun 012021

Why are women (mostly) immune to the radical right?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a good brain is rarely in want of a male-dominated, chauvinist, sexist radical right party. Or something along these lines. Austen aside, for most radical right parties in (Western) Europe, the male-to-female ratio in their respective electorates is roughly 2:1. As far as I know, this is more than any other party family has to offer. In this 2015 paper, the authors (none of them of the female persuasion) argue that there are two complementary mechanisms that could account for this finding:

  1. Mediation: men/women hold different attitudes (towards immigration/immigrants)
  2. Moderation: the importance of such attitudes varies by gender

Their main result is that both mechanisms seem to contribute in roughly equal parts to the observable gender differences in far right support.

Harteveld, E., Brug, W. V. D., Dahlberg, S., & Kokkonen, A. (2015). The gender gap in populist radical-right voting: examining the demand side in western and eastern europe. Patterns of Prejudice, 49(1-2), 103–134. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1024399

What we liked

Students really, really liked the topic of this paper. They were also intrigued that the authors name-checked the social construction of gender, but slightly disappointed that this had very little tangible consequences, as far as the analysis was concerned. Following our reading of Brils, Muis, and Gaidyte (2020), they also appreciated that the authors differentiate between the relatively well-known state of affairs in Western Europe and the potentially very different CEE world. They thought that the idea of moderation-by-gender (and more generally the idea of voter heterogeneity) was quite innovative and said that the authors’ interpretation of their tables was clear and easy to follow.

Picture of Marine Le Pen

Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick / Lille – Meeting de Marine Le Pen pour l’élection présidentielle, le 26 mars 2017 à Lille Grand Palais (069) / Wikimedia Commons

What we did not like so much

In some (rare) instances, the interpretations were less than lucid. More importantly, a lot of stuff is happening in this paper, which is perhaps too much and results in a somewhat complex structure (where did the perceived left-right distance come from, and what do these findings mean, exactly?). After I have supplied them with industrial quantities of the Brambor-et-al. Kool Aid, my students are also allergic to any statements about the significance or insignificance of terms in interactive models and demand margins plots, fast. And are these really enough countries for multi-level modelling, particularly after splitting the sample?

But by and large, we were quite happy. This is an important topic, and the paper provides bold answers to some of the big questions attached to it.

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