In the USA, it seems increasingly like the Republican Party is becoming the "White Party" and becoming a vehicle for soft White nationalism, or at least White grievance politics, while the Democrats are becoming the non-White party and champions of minority rights. Something very similar is happening in England, where the Tories increasingly have a huge share of the White vote and Labour an overwhelming share of the non-White vote (and I mean England, as opposed to the UK - Scotland and Wales are monocultural, White nations, while Northern Ireland of course has its own ethnic - but not racial - based politics). Another obvious example is South Africa, where the Democratic Alliance is basically the "White party", with some outreach to a proportionately small number of liberal-minded Black voters, while a huge plurality of Black voters vote ANC or EFF. I believe there is a similar phenomenon in India with the BJP/Congress cleavage, although I'm no expert.

Some people (particularly those who are sceptical about multiracialism and demographic change) posit that multi or bi-cultural societies inevitably see this coalescing of ethnic identities around parties. Are there examples of multiracial societies which don't have this kind of ethnic-based identity politics? Where parties have genuine appeal across ethnic divides?

  • 11
    TBH there is no such thing as a white or colored party. Take Candance Owens for example, she's black and highly republican and a lot of other "minorities" do also vote republican because it's in their best interests. (A lot of legal immigrants for example are anti illegal immigration). It is often the left parties that claim to be the minority party so they can portray their opposition as racist villain's.
    – A.bakker
    Oct 15, 2020 at 19:58
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    @A.bakker I agree painting the Republican and Democratic parties as the White/Nonwhite parties is vastly oversimplifying matters. But you can't ignore the very real differences in party affiliation by race - some 80% of black registered voters lean Democrat, compared to 8% that lean Republican. About 40% of registered voters who lean Democrat are nonwhite, compared to 17% among those who lean Republican (29% are nonwhite overall). Clearly, race and party politics are very strongly linked in the US, and the parties do not have uniform appeal across different segments of the population. Oct 15, 2020 at 20:27
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    @A.bakker I agree. But your response highlights that it's still a White populist party, just one which attracts the interests of enough minority people whose interests align with that White populism. Oct 16, 2020 at 12:51
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    There is at least one obvious lurking variable in this question of the link between race and political affiliation: wealth. Also afaik there's no such ethnic-based party politics in Germany, France or Canada for example.
    – Erwan
    Oct 24, 2020 at 18:48
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    Maybe I misunderstood your question: I assumed that you are asking whether there is a strong imbalance in terms of the ethnicity of voters between political parties in general. From this point of view I don't think there is a particular party in France which corresponds to the "non-white" party. However if the question is whether there is at least one party which plays the nationalist/race card, then sure you can cross off most western countries as far as I know.
    – Erwan
    Oct 24, 2020 at 23:18

3 Answers 3


Short Answer

The question is based upon a false premise. While there are ethnic based political parties in many multi-party democracies in countries with multiple ethnicities, the mere fact that any given ethnicity tends to favor one party more than another does not make it ethnic based and the examples given in the question are flawed for making that assumption.

Long Answer

There is no multi-ethnic country with more than one political party in the world where there is no statistically significant correlation between ethnicity and party affiliation.

But the question's premise that such correlations amount to "ethic-based party politics" is not sound. And, even in countries in which some political parties have an ethnic or nationalist basis, other political parties do not.

There are certainly explicitly ethnic or nationalist based political parties. Canada has the "Parti Quebecois". The U.K. has a Scottish Nationalist Party and the Alba Party (which is also Scottish Nationalist), Plaid Cymru (a Welsh Nationalist Party), and ethnically organized political parties in Northern Ireland (divided by religious/ethnic affiliation, Democratic Unionist Party which is Protestant affiliated and associated with comparative recent (by Irish standards) English and Scottish immigration, and Sinn Féin, which is Irish Republican, ethnically indigenous Irish to times immemorial, and overwhelmingly Catholic). Spain has a Basque Nationalist party and the Catalan Nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia associated with ethnic/linguistic minorities with a strong regional identity.

Similarly, Israel, Nigeria, and Belgium, all have explicitly ethnic based political parties.

But, it isn't simple. It is also worth noting that political parties are frequently one of the key mechanism by which ethnicity and nationalist identity is formed and maintained. For example, the existence of a Finnish nation and ethnicity was strongly facilitated by Finnish Nationalist political movements and political parties. Likewise, while South Korea is currently a more or less mono-ethnic nation, the restoration of Korean sovereignty in an expansionist Japanese sphere of influence is largely a product of Korean nationalist political movements (as well as, rather oddly, the YMCA, yes, really, the Young Men Christian's Association that builds urban gyms that originally catered to young men migrating to industrial cities from rural farm communities in the U.S.A.).

But the characterization of the Tories and Labour as ethnically based doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. The ethnic and religious divisions between these parties is less clean than the ethic and religious divisions between the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. The basis and ideology of the Tories, Labour and the Liberals, all began at a time when there were almost no non-white voters in England and historically reflect divisions among whites by social class, rather than an ethnic basis (and the U.K. is still much less ethnically diverse than the U.S. or Canada, for example). These parties aren't exactly the same in character as the parties of that early era, but they haven't experienced the wholesale realignment and trading of places that the Democrats and Republicans have in the United States and have continuity of ideology and character to an earlier date.

The rise of the ethnically based BJP party in India is a relatively recent development and the Congress party was founded as a unifying multi-ethnic party.

Likewise, there are many significant ethnic populations that do not have corresponding political parties in multi-party Democracies. Japan does not have a political party corresponding to its Korean minority. Germany does not have a political party corresponding to its Turkish minority. France does not have a political party corresponding to its Algeria or West African minorities. The U.K. does not have a political party corresponding to its South Asian minority.

The U.S. has a major political party, the Democrats, that is disproportionately favored by non-whites, but the Democratic Party is not a political party with an ethnic basis - it is a grab bag of almost all non-white ethnicities and non-Christian religions that includes liberal atheists and conservative Muslims alike (a division that arguably even explains why Cuban refugee descended populations which mostly identify as white vote Republican, and why Southern Texan Tejano Hispanics who identify as white Texans do so as well).

A multi-ethnic political party is not an ethnic based political party, and the same can be said of Labour in the U.K. and various Democratic Socialist parties in Continental Europe and Scandinavia.

The Republican Party is not yet an ethnic based political party

The U.S. Republican Party may be on its way to becoming a Christian White Nationalist Party, but this trend has been recent, gradual, and still hasn't run its course. It is not organized and defined on an ethnic basis. This is particularly true outside of the deep South where racial block voting is not pronounced.

Perhaps the GOP will have a true ethnic basis in 2040, and it is trending in that direction, but it hasn't yet crossed that line, and a lot can happen in twenty years that no one would ever predict.

While locally born white Protestant Christians in the South overwhelmingly vote for Republicans these days, this is not true of whites in other regions of the country, whites who have migrated to the South, and whites who are not Protestant or Mormon, where the white vote is very split on lines that don't cleanly correspond to ethnicity.

Conversely, Utah Mormons and white Southern Baptists in the South are two of the most loyal core supporters of the GOP but share only a smattering of religious beliefs, have little recent shared ancestry or ancestral culture (Utah Mormons are mostly ancestrally derived from white New Englanders), and speak different regional dialects of English. Utah Mormons are overwhelmingly urban. Southern Baptists in the South are disproportionately rural.

There have been a number of very prominent African-American members in the post-realignment era when the GOP was the anti-civil rights party (e.g. the recently deceased Colin Powell, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Dale Wainwright who is a Texas Supreme Court Justice, Michael Steele who is the 64th Chairman of the Republican National Committee, J. Kenneth Blackwell who held statewide office in Ohio, Herman Cain former GOP Presidential candidate, Ben Carson who was HUD Secretary under Trump, Samuel Pierce who was a HUD Secretary, James Evans who was chair of the Utah GOP, Curtis Hill who was Indiana's Attorney General, Boyd Rutherford who is Lt. Governor of Maryland, and Alveda King who is the niece of MLK, Jr.).

Latino support for the GOP, particular among Cuban-Americans and certain South Texans was pivotal numerous recent elections. There are also notable Asian-American (including South Asian American Hindus) in the GOP, even though it is predominantly Christian.

The U.S. Republican party is less of an ethnic party than, for example, the Christian Democratic Union in Germany.


To complement ohwilleke's answer:

It is even a mistake to think that parties have any central basis at all, let alone an ethnically based one. Parties change their platforms and core coalitions based on the political climate. If a party's messaging is not being well received and they are consistently losing voteshare, they will change their tune in order to reclaim seats. Each party adjusts until they are no longer able to gain any voters without alienating even more. The membership of each party at any given time simply represents a semi-stable Nash Equilibrium. This is especially true in two-party systems, where each party hovers suspiciously near 50% vote share at all times.

The fact that party affiliation frequently comes to align with ethnic affiliation results more from human psychology than political intentions. Ethnic identity plays a large roll in how people view themselves and others. Political parties have been happy to realign themselves to capitalize on this.

  • While this may be accurate for the US parties, it strongly contradicts my experience with parties in Europe which tend to have an ideological core they will not give up. In fact, when the German SPD changed its core principles and decided on a new manifesto in 1959 ('Godesberger Programm') shifting from advocating a socialist future to a socialdemocratic flavour of a market economy, that was big news. So impactful, that the German Wikipedia article is rated excellent.
    – Jan
    Oct 21, 2021 at 17:31
  • @Jan From the English language translation of your link, it looks like it supports my point. The SPD reasoned they could do better for themselves by shifting their stance on Marxism and Free Market principles. Apparently they were right, as they gained 61 seats in The Bundestag over the following 4 election cycles. Many parties in Europe fill ideological niches. They still adapt their platform based on the political climate
    – eclipz905
    Oct 21, 2021 at 19:41
  • The point isn't that this was an ideological shift; the point is that ideological shifts like this are exceedingly rare in Europe to the point where this one single shift is both the and the only example most politically interested people in Germany would think of (if they are even old enough to remember it).
    – Jan
    Oct 22, 2021 at 12:01

Answering the question:

Are there examples of multiracial societies which don't have this kind of ethnic-based identity politics? Where parties have genuine appeal across ethnic divides?

Russian Federation is very multicultural and at least technically a democracy. But it is not true that every ethnic group there mostly supports one particular party. Of course, according to polls most people in Russia support "United Russia", but there is no ethnic group that supports it more than any other ethnic group (per capita).

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