Born in the 1980s, Green parties are often presented as the vector of postmaterialist values (Inglehart, 1977), of the New Politics ideals (Poguntke, 1993), of the New Left Policy Agenda (Kaelberer, 1993) or of the libertarian left (Kitschelt, 1988). They rapidly accessed the parliamentary arenas in a couple of countries: in Switzerland in 1979, in Belgium in 1981, in Germany and in Finland in 1983, in Luxembourg in 1984. During the second half of the 1980s, they entered the legislative assemblies in Austria (1986), in Italy (1987), in Sweden (1988) and in the Netherlands (1989). Several authors at that time predicted a bright future for Green parties (Galtung, 1986, p. 85). However, looking back at how they have performed in the last decades, the picture appears quite mixed. Analysing the electoral performances of these parties, Mair (1999) has put into question their ability to emerge as relevant actors in the Western political landscape. According to Mair, Green parties in Western Europe have failed to brand themselves as the precursors of a new global realignment and have remained electorally quite marginal. By contrast, Dietz (2001) considers that Green parties have become important electoral political actors at the national level in most EU member states. Fifteen years later, how should we consider the electoral fate of these parties? In this chapter, we first examine the electoral performances of Green parties in Europe at the national and European levels. Then, we propose a sociological analysis of their electorate. We examine the profile of Green voters in terms of social background, political preferences, form and degree of social and political activism and attitudes towards politics and democratic institutions. Whereas the first part of the chapter highlights the distinct paths that Green parties have followed, the second part insists on the commonalities of the Green electorate across Europe.
Green parties in Europe