Radical right populist (RRP) parties are often described as Männerparteien, predominantly led by, represented by, and supported by men. Yet recently, these parties have elected more women. Under what conditions do we see this increase in women MPs? This paper presents a novel argument of strategic descriptive representation: electorally struggling RRP parties with large gender gaps in voter support increase their proportion of women MPs to attract previously untapped women voters. To test this argument, we develop the most comprehensive dataset to date on women MPs and gender differences in voter support across Europe and over time, covering 187 parties in 30 countries from 1985 to 2018. Our analyses confirm that RRP parties engage in strategic descriptive representation when they are both struggling electorally and suffering from a gender gap in support. Additional models reveal that this tactic is largely unique to RRP parties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations