Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlash

The forthcoming article “Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlashby Eva Anduiza and Guillem Rico is summarized by the authors below.

The rise of the far right has often been interpreted as a backlash reaction against progressive values such as gender equality. However, instead of being employed as an observable concept, the term gender backlash has been used more as a narrative, one that is either defended or contested.  

Do people change their attitudes towards gender equality in a way that is compatible with the gender backlash thesis? Do these changes have consequences for far-right voting? To answer these questions, we look into people’s attitudes regarding modern sexism, a subtle form of prejudice which closely reflects typical far-right discourses that deny that discrimination against women exists, and reject any actions aimed at correcting existing inequalities.   

We define gender backlash attitudinal change as increases in sexism that occur in a context of feminist mobilizations and normalization attitudinal change as increases in sexism occurring in a context of the far right gaining momentum. We take the case of Spain where these two moments have been clearly distinguishable. 

Our data show that individuals’ levels of modern sexism changed through time in these periods of feminist mobilization and far-right visibilization, but following two disparate logics. While feminist mobilization operates along a polarizing dynamic (after feminist protests, sexism decreases particularly among women, supporters of left-wing liberal parties, and citizens engaged in feminist protests), far-right visibility seems to be related to increasing levels of sexism for all citizens regardless of their predispositions. 

Those who became more sexist during the wave of feminist mobilization were later more likely to become far-right voters. That is to say, this backlash attitudinal change had electoral consequences. On the other hand, those who became more sexist after the far right became visible were not more likely to later vote for the far right. While this normalization attitudinal change has no direct short-term electoral consequences, it is disturbing in terms of the extent to which prejudiced views may become prevalent, and their potential long-term electoral consequences.  

These findings are important for those of us who are concerned about sex-based equality. They point to the fact that we must not only confront a situation of existing inequality and discrimination against women, but also one where feminists’ displays of strength are likely to generate backlash reactions with electoral consequences.  

About the Authors: Eva Anduiza is a Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Guillem Rico is a Research Fellow at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Their research “Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlash” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.

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