In_equality Colloquium - Struggling males in democratic politics? Towards a research agenda

Tuesday, 21. November 2023
11:45 - 13:15

Y213 and online

Cluster of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality"

Staffan Kumlin (University of Oslo)

Gender is increasingly debated and researched as a factor behind political orientations. In some respects, and places, it may have become a more important determinant over time, especially with the rise of “second dimension” (GAL-TAN) political conflict. Much debate and research focus on the gender gap in support for populist/radical right parties. Scholars have documented how men are more prone to support these parties and their core positions. By its own admission, however, this research field has only been party successful in explaining the mechanisms underlying the gender gap. Many studies concentrate either on employment/labour market related variables, or “cultural backlash” theory. While these approaches have merit, I suggest conceptualizing negative male life experiences more broadly. This may involve the following areas: outcomes of, and experiences with, the educational system; family related factors like childlessness, singlehood, involvement with children before and after divorce; social networks; and health inequalities. Moreover, I suggest three improvements when studying the political impact of such experiences. First, we may need more research across a greater variety of dependent variables, including also “first dimension” redistributive spending preferences, as well as trust in democratic institutions and actors. Second, we may need a “policy feedback” perspective, whereby (dis)satisfaction with relevant public services and social protection schemes serve as both cushion and catalyst for political gender gaps. Third, we need “intersectional” approaches, whereby negative male life experiences interact with class, place, and ethnicity. It may be poor men in poor places whose political orientations are moved the most by negative male life experiences.

Staffan Kumlin is Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo.  His research concers research concerns comparative political behaviour, public opinion, and democracy in European welfare states. His most recent book is the co-authored “Election Campaigns and Welfare State Change: Democratic Linkage and Leadership Under Pressure” (Oxford UP, 2022). Previous books include “The Personal and the Political: How Personal Welfare State Experiences Affect Political Trust and Ideology” (Palgrave-Macmillan 2004) and the co-edited “How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes” (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014).