The 2023 Polish elections, widely perceived as a critical juncture amid concerns of democratic backsliding, represented a pivotal moment for the country's democratic integrity. This study focuses on the social mobilisation termed 'the revolution of the politically disinterested', driven predominantly by groups typically disengaged from politics, particularly young women. Historically, these women have demonstrated the least interest in politics and the lowest voter turnout in general elections. However, in 2023, they emerged as a decisive force, exhibiting voting preferences significantly divergent from the broader electorate.
Since 2016, and especially following the Constitutional Tribunal's 2020 abortion ruling, there has been noticeable political mobilisation among women, particularly within younger cohorts. This shift manifested in increased declarations of interest in politics, unprecedented participation in the 2020 presidential elections in Poland, and a marked inclination towards left-wing political stances. This surge in political engagement notably influenced the strong focus on women's rights in the agendas of opposition political parties. In 2023, the political activation of this demographic, initially hesitant about participating in elections, became increasingly apparent in the weeks leading up to the elections, resulting in an unprecedented turnout.
Using a representative survey with survey experiments conducted a month after the 2023 parliamentary elections, this study investigates the social mobilisation around gender issues as pivotal to the election outcome. The research reveals a reversal of conservative trends established during the Law and Justice (PiS) rule, particularly regarding attitudes towards women's political representation. It also emphasises the centrality of women’s rights in electoral mobilisation and identifies gender-specific strategies in candidate selection on electoral lists.
Looking ahead to the 2024 European Parliament elections, this study underscores that mobilisation, especially among young cohorts, around women's rights is temporal and conditional. Sustaining this momentum will necessitate continued efforts from both governmental and non-governmental actors.