Find Us


EU Elections: Spain's young voters are increasingly polarised by gender

The political opinions of young people in Spain are becoming increasingly gendered.
The political opinions of young people in Spain are becoming increasingly gendered. Copyright Arturo Rodriguez/AP2011
Copyright Arturo Rodriguez/AP2011
By Jaime Velázquez
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

Across Europe, younger voters are increasingly choosing political parties based on their gender politics – and the right is winning the battle for young men's votes.


Spain’s youth are heading to the European elections on June 9, and the divisions among them are palpable. But the divide is not just ideological; it’s increasingly gendered.

Young men and women in Spain are seeing the world through very different political lenses, and these differences are shaping their choices at the ballot box.

Bera Villavicencio, Edurne Prado, and Haiby Edith Rivas are three young activists in the feminist association Pan y Rosas, a group that champions socialist and feminist causes. They are also part of a growing trend: 40% of women under 24 in Spain now identify as left-wing or far-left, according to the Spanish National Centre of Sociological Research.

"We come from a series of struggles where young people have been at the forefront,” Bera, 23, explains at the Complutense University campus in Madrid. “For example, against the climate crisis. We are the ones who came out to say there is no planet B, and many of us started to become politicised through feminism."

Increasing numbers of young women find their political home on the left
Increasing numbers of young women find their political home on the leftEuronews / Jaime Velazquez

Haiby, 19, believes young women are leaning left as a reaction to the rise of the extreme right.

“The far-right is increasingly infiltrating certain sectors with a highly reactionary discourse that questions the rights of women, migrant women, the LGTBI community, and others".

But while these young women find their political home on the left, many of their young male peers are gravitating towards the right.

A gendered Europe

Although men as a whole are closer to the political centre than women, 30% of young men in Spain identify with parties from the right and extreme right.

Among those representative of the shift is Diego Yáñez, president of the conservative student association Libertad sin Ira. He believes the right are better at representing traditionally male values of family and patriotism, and thinks left-wing gender policies are aimed not at pursuing equality but at making electoral gains.

"Radical feminism means much more than advocating for women's rights," he insists. "It’s about demonising men and treating them as criminals. This has made many young people rethink their positions and opt for a more conservative stance.”

This gendered political divide is not unique to Spain. A Gallup survey in the US shows that the ideological distance between young male and female voters have increased by 10 percentage points in the last 20 years. A similar survey conducted in the UK sets that distance at 25 points, according to the Financial Times.

Diego Yáñez believes the right are better at representing the male's values
Diego Yáñez believes the right are better at representing the male's valuesEuronews / Jaime Velázquez

Alfredo Ramos, a specialist in masculinity studies, says that gender now transcends differences of income or age in political life. “We are witnessing a political battle where gender has become an articulating element of conflicts that previously could be addressed through other variables,” he says.

As the left becomes more feminised, far-right parties are increasingly making specific appeals to young men who feel their privileges are under threat.

"If we compare it with the proliferation of examples on social media which address a conservative reconstruction of masculinity, there are very few options for other types of masculinity where young men can feel recognised," Ramos explains. "It's something the left is failing to address.

"Talking about privilege is something that homogenises the male experience, as if all men would experience the same privilege in the same way. This is preventing men who can also experience disadvantages in other aspects of life to identify with the discourse of gender equality."

Zero-sum game

This gender struggle among young people could have profound consequences for European Union policy, and the growing polarisation has worrying implications for a future that must necessarily be shared between men and women.

"We are being told if you want to win, somebody has to lose. These dynamics are not benefiting anybody. They may bring some political gains at a certain point, but are really short-sighted" Ramos adds.

Sitting on the lawn of the university campus, Edurne, Bera and Haiby are clear about how they will vote on June 9. Haiby is supporting a small far-left party, the Workers' Revolutionary Movement, and her friends will also be voting for far-left candidates.


"Capitalism is taking advantage of patriarchal prejudice to undervalue females and 'feminised' jobs like those related to care," argues Edurne, a graduate nurse. "We are very aware of this and that's why we are so much left-leaning."

"What we need to demand right now it's the right to voluntary, legal, free abortion in the EU, as it's is not recognised in all countries or it's not effectively implemented everywhere," Bera adds.

In contrast, young men like Diego will vote for the right as a way to revolt against a leftist agenda.

“Progressive policies are the establishment. What is disruptive is voting for other options. We need policies that address real equality between men and women, and not a radical feminism that only wants us to fight and be divided."

Share this articleComments

You might also like

European elections: Why are Portugal and Malta allowing early voting?

Spain's parliament gives final approval to amnesty law for Catalonia's separatists

COVID-19: Spain sees highest youth unemployment rate in EU as pandemic hits hard