A new study finds women increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties.
It used to be that these radical groups were seen as the preserve of men, especially young men. That's changed.
...that's not entirely accurate, according to a new study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), which is affiliated with Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party. The report, which examines right-wing populist voters in Germany, France, Greece, Poland, Sweden and Hungary, found that women are increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties.
What makes these parties appealing to women?
Right-wing populist parties tend to propagate an anachronistic image of femininity. However, that did not stop some 17 percent of women in eastern Germany from casting their ballot in favor of the AfD during the country's 2017 parliamentary election; 8 percent of women in western Germany did likewise. And in Poland, more women than men voted for the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party in the country's 2015 election.
...So, what is it that makes these parties so appealing to women? Elisa Gutsche, who edited the FES study, argued that many right-wing populist parties examined in the report seek to garner female votes by promising to strengthen the welfare system. "Parties say they will raise child benefit payments and make related allowances to promote families," she said.
Poland's PiS, for instance, has launched the Family 500+ initiative, which guarantees families with two children a monthly payment of approximately €120 ($140) per child until they reach the age of 18.
Germany's AfD, in turn, champions a "welcome culture for children" — in contrast to the country's much lauded "welcome culture" towards foreign refugees. Indeed, a sizable number of female voters have opted to support the party due to anxiety over what the future might hold and fears that Germany's pension system may collapse. Social issues, therefore, often motivate many women to back right-wing populists.
...The report also highlights how women are actually more inclined to subscribe to strong xenophobic and Islamophobic beliefs than men.
"That finding surprised me the most," said Gutsche. Women face a constant uphill struggle in a patriarchal society, she explained — they are more likely to have badly paying jobs and are at higher risk of old-age poverty.
"I think women sense they are at the lower rungs of society and find themselves having to compete against refugees and migrants," said Gutsche. That, in her view, also helps to explain why women support right-wing populist parties.