Differences in political sympathies between men and women -The Sweden Democrats

11 maj 2009

Note: This was written in October 2007 and might be outdated.

A recent unofficial poll made by SIFO[1] shows that the Sweden Democrats, the biggest nationalist party in Sweden, and the biggest party outside the Riksdag would get 3,6% of the votes if there would be an election today, a notable increase since last year’s election in which the party got 2,9% of the votes in the national election.[2] There is no doubt that the party is getting more and more support. It is already the forth most popular party among Swedish males, with a support of 5,9%, close behind the Liberal People’s Party with a male support of 6,0%. However their female supporters are not as many, SD only get 1,4% of the female votes. This is a comparatively huge difference, but it is not only by mere accident, the sympathies between men and women do differ among all parties due to the social situation in our society.

There are a lot of factors that affect how we vote. Socioeconomic status, education, gender, age, social environment are some examples. People with low socioeconomic status and low level of educational attainment are more likely to vote for a Labour party, whereas more educated people with higher socioeconomic status are more inclined to vote for non-Socialist parties. Young people tend to think that education is an important issue, while older people might prefer a better senior care.[3] It is not too hard to understand why this is, but why does gender affect why voters vote the way they do?

The SIFO poll is not the only example that shows that the Sweden Democrats have more support from men. In 2006’s “Ungt Val” they received almost 20% of the votes from the male youths between 15 and 21 years of age), but only 11.9% when including votes from women in the same age.[4] A huge difference, but it is not specific to them. Statistics show that it is more common that women support the left of the political blocs, while men support the right.[5][6] This rift between the sexes is even bigger among young people.[7] SD are not unique in having differences in support between the genders, but the difference is more obvious.

Some would come to the conclusion that this is because of the same reasons as the difference between the two blocs, and the Sweden Democrats being labelled as “extreme right” would therefore have a more extreme difference. However the term “extreme right” is very misleading, as SD (and many other European nationalist parties) is more of a social conservative party, not really fitting into the traditional left-right spectrum, but still being more of a party in the centre of the spectrum, hence that conclusion is lame. When looking at how their voters voted in the election in 2002 we see that they got an almost equal amount of votes from the left and the right bloc,[8] the majority being from either the Social Democrats or the Moderate Party,[9] however it is more common that they define themselves as right wing rather than left wing (but most of them do not define themselves as any of it).[10]

The trend that women are more left orientated than men is new. The historical difference in Sweden is small, but still notable. Until recently women have generally been more supportive of cultural conservatism and religious ideals, and more inclined to vote for non-Socialist parties. However, by 1976 the difference was close to zero and in the 1980s it had turned over, and as previously stated it is still that way.[11] In the election in 1998 the difference was record high, but by 2002 it had decreased again. There still were some major distinctions in the voting patterns of men and women aged 23-30 years though, the Left Party and the Moderate Party, are the most extreme examples of this. The percentage of these women who voted for the Left Party (15%) were slightly less than  twice as many as the men (8)%, and the men who voted for the Moderate Party (20%) were just over twice as many as the women (9%).

According to two experts in political science, Maria Oskarson and Lena Wängnerud, this historical change is caused by the fact that women began making themselves heard and being more active in politics in the 70s.[12] Having the traditional role of child raisers, they saw the society from a different angle and lay more importance on care matters, something that the working men did not care about. Men thought matters dealing with unemployment, unions and taxes were important, as those things had impact on them. Why would they care about child-care, when the wives could take care of the children?

When the women entered the political scene and began talking about these subjects, they often joined the political left, as they were more inclined to listen to them and began gaining more votes from other women. Earlier, when only men were politicians, they had been no good alternative for these women. There is still an uneven proportion between the sexes in the Riksdag (45% women), the county councils (47%) and the municipal councils (42%) however.[13] Women vote for parties who understand them, who see things from their point of view. One can come to the conclusion that women vote for anyone who deals with issues that concern women and their daily lives. And who would understand women and their needs best, if not other women? The exception from this is the Christian Democrats who have more female voters,[14] but 70% men elected.[15]

This might be where the Sweden Democrats fail. In the party leadership, there are only two women – but 16 men.[16] The same goes for party representatives, it is dominated by men.[17] An explanation to this is that the political oppression many members are subjected to, such as violence from extremist groups, such as Antifascistisk Aktion, [18] and fear of being sacked,[19] or expelled from the union.[20] This does, according to party representative Patrik Ohlsson, result in a huge loss of men, and even more women, who could have represented the party.[21] As there is probably a great loss of potential female voters in this area SD have recently started a network for women, lead by the vice party chairman, Anna Hagwall, who will deal with issues concerning women and try to broaden the party’s perspective. This should contribute to making women’s issues more important in the party, compensating for the low number of female members, and they are hoping that this will lead to more female voters, members and even representatives.[22]

In southern Sweden, the difference between the genders when it comes to supporting the Sweden Democrats is smaller than in the rest of Sweden. Anders Sannerstedt, senior lecturer in political science, says this is because women are less likely to vote for parties that are not yet as well established as others,[23] and statistics from the SOM (Society, Opinion and Media) Institute shows that as a result of this, the differences between men and women living in Scania (which is geographically and culturally close to Denmark where SD’s sister party Danish People’s Party have been successful), where SD has established itself best, are much lower than in the rest of Sweden. There is even a slightly higher support among young women than young men.[24]

There is also a Darwinistic reason why men are more nationalistic. Throughout the history of mankind we have stuck together in our packs. To protect the group and guarantee the spread of their genes, men made sure no alien male could produce offspring with their women, but if lucky they could produce own offspring with alien women themselves. The women never had to fight for their right to produce offspring, and did not have to bother whether the one making her pregnant was from her own pack or another group, as her genes would spread anyway. A modern example of this is when the Soviet Union “liberated” the people in eastern Germany and Europe in World War II, and the Red Army soldiers raped maybe as many as 15 million women, or even more.[25]

In conclusion we can tell that there is a difference between men and women’s political opinions, but it is hard to tell whether this is caused by cultural or biological differences. In the end it is of course depending on the individual what he or she thinks, no matter if it is a man or a woman. But we should be aware of the fact that your sex is part of who you are and affects what you do, how you act and your political opinions. Some things are biologically determined and some culturally. But we cannot deny that there might be biological nor cultural reasons behind, and we will have to guess that it is a combination of both.

Bibliography (in order of appearance)

Dagens Nyheter – Sverigedemokraterna går hem hos män
(published September 22, 2007 – accessed October 15 2007)

Sverigedemokraterna – Valresultat i de allmänna valen 2006
(published October 1, 2006 – accessed October 18, 2007)

Holmberg, Sören & Oscarsson, Henrik – Svenskt väljarbeteende (2002) p.7, 25-27
(accessed October, 16, 2007)

Aftonbladet – Vinnare 2006 – ultrahögern
(published June 7, 2006 – accessed October 16, 2007)

Aftonbladet – Röda tjejer – och blå killar
(published June 7, 2006 – accessed October 16, 2007)

SVT – Valu 2006
(accessed October 17, 2007)

Välfärd 2006:2 p. 7
(published May 30, 2006, accessed October 16, 2007)

Metro – Sverigedemokrater storsatsar i Skåne
(published August 7, 2006 – accessed October 17, 2007)

Samarbeta jämt – Kvinnor i politiken
(accessed October 16, 2007)

Statistics Sweden – Sveriges officiella statistik: Nominerade och valda kandidater vid de allmänna valen 2002 p.12
(published May 26, 2003 – accessed October 17, 2007)

Sverigedemokraterna – Partistyrelsen
(accessed October 16, 2007)

Anders Sannerstedt – Sd ett parti för medelålders
(published August 12, 2007 – accessed October 15, 2007)

Expressen – Säpo: Hot och våld mot sd ökar
(published August 16, 2007 – accessed August 16, 2007)

Sydsvenskan – Sparkad för sina åsikter
(published October 16, 2005 – accessed August 16, 2007)

Sydsvenskan – Ännu en sd-medlem slängs ut ur facket
(published March 15, 2006 – accessed October 16, 2007)

Patrik Ohlsson – Veckobrev 2/10 -07
(published October 2, 2007 – accessed October 15, 2007)

Sverigedemokraterna – Glädjande siffror i ny undersökning
(published September 24, 2007 – accessed October 16, 2007)

Dagens nyheter – Sverigedemokraterna går hem hos män
(published September 22, 2007 – accessed October 11, 2007)

The Daily Telegraph – Red army troops raped even Russian women as they freed them from camps
(published January 25, 2002 – accessed October 18, 2007)

[1] http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1042&a=695811

[2] http://www.sverigedemokraterna.net/press_text.php?action=fullnews&id=745

[3] http://www.scb.se/statistik/ME/ME0106/2002A01/ME0106_2002A01_BR_05_ME04SA0401.pdf  p. 25-27

[4] http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article384041.ab

[5] http://wwwc.aftonbladet.se/vss/telegram/0,1082,67492914_852__,00.html

[6] http://svt.se/svt/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=56758

[7] http://www.scb.se/Grupp/allmant/BE0801_2006K02_TI_04_A05ST0602.pdf

[8] http://svt.se/svt/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=56673

[9] http://www.metro.se/se/article/2006/08/07/07/5032-23/index.xml

[10] http://svt.se/svt/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=57344

[11] http://www.scb.se/statistik/ME/ME0106/2002A01/ME0106_2002A01_BR_05_ME04SA0401.pdf p. 25-26

[12] http://www.samarbeta.org/tibet/page/4002/sv;jsessionid=80CFD2E5E7851917F099C08F0B648CFE

[13] http://www.scb.se/statistik/ME/ME0106/2002A01/ME0106_2002A01_BR_02_ME04SA0401.pdf p. 7

[14] http://www.scb.se/statistik/ME/ME0106/2002A01/ME0106_2002A01_BR_05_ME04SA0401.pdf p.26

[15] http://www.scb.se/statistik/ME/ME0107/2003M00/ME12SM0301.pdf p. 12

[16] http://www.sverigedemokraterna.net/parti_ps.php

[17] http://sydsvenskan.se/opinion/aktuellafragor/article258156.ece

[18] http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/1.801031/sapo-hot-och-vald-mot-sd-okar

[19] http://sydsvenskan.se/sverige/article123330.ece

[20] http://sydsvenskan.se/sverige/article147722.ece

[21] http://patrik-i-politiken.blogspot.com/2007/10/veckobrev-210-07.html

[22] http://www.sverigedemokraterna.net/index.php?action=fullnews&id=898

[23] http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1042&a=695811

[24] http://sydsvenskan.se/opinion/aktuellafragor/article258156.ece



2 svar to “Differences in political sympathies between men and women -The Sweden Democrats”

  1. Lil GP said

    We have this phenomenon occur in the USA too, and sometimes it seems like all over the world, only women should even be allowed to vote!


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