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Gender, gendered personality traits and radical right populist voting
While gender differences in radical right populist (RRP) voting have been studied extensively, little attention has been paid to the link between gendered personality traits and radical right populist voting, even though explanations for the gender differences in radical right voting often look implicitly through the lens of gendered personalities. Therefore, the main goals of the study were to assess (1) how gendered personality traits relate to radical right voting, and (2) to what extent and how they mediate and moderate the gender gap in radical right support. In brief, the simplistic discourse of RRP parties concerning the presence of immigrants and their strict migration policies with the aims of excluding a particular social group are at odds with higher scores on warmth, compassion, and sympathy, which are typically seen as feminine traits. Hence, possessing feminine personality traits was expected to be negatively related to support for a radical right party. By contrast, masculine traits such as assertiveness and aggressiveness fit better with the RRP parties’ strict and aggressive discourse, and the radical policies typically taken by RRP parties, and were thus anticipated to positively affect the probability of supporting a RRP party.
To answer my research questions, I relied on data from the 2012-2013 Dutch LISS (Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social Sciences) which include the Bem’s Sex Role Inventory to measure gendered personality traits. The analyses confirmed the expected significant and positive effect of masculine personality traits on supporting the Dutch radical right party, PVV. However and contrary to expectations, no noticeable effect of feminine personality traits was found. The effects of masculine and feminine traits were also similar for women and men. Furthermore, the analyses found that women were significantly less likely to support the PVV, even once gendered personality traits are controlled for. This suggests that while self-identification as woman/man and gendered personality traits are related (with women holding more feminine traits and men holding more masculine traits), there are aspects of self-identification not captured by gendered personality traits that are related to support for RRP parties.
Overall, and supporting Bem’s argument about the relative importance of gender-role orientation versus sex/gender, the paper poignantly demonstrated that integrating non-dichotomous concepts of gendered personality traits is crucial if we want to gain a full understanding of the gender structure in radical right voting behaviour. Discovering that masculine personality traits have an independent influence on voters’ preference for a RRP party beyond someone’s self-identification as a woman or man – which itself has a direct, independent effect – supports a comprehensive model that recognizes the complexity of gender.
Hilde Coffé is a Professor of Politics at the University of Bath and the winner of the 2019 Politics journal Prize for the Best Publication. Ideas in this blog post first appeared in the article, Gender, gendered personality traits and radical right populist voting published in the PSA's journal Politics. Image credit: Prime Minister Rutte/Flickr.