Political colour

Hogarth's The Polling, depicting a 1754 election to the British parliament, includes a blue flag representing the conservative Tories and a buff flag representing the liberal Whigs

Political colours are colours used to represent a political ideology, movement or party, either officially or unofficially.[1] Parties in different countries with similar ideologies sometimes use similar colours. For example, the colour red symbolises left-wing ideologies in many countries (leading to such terms as "Red Army" and "Red Scare"), while the colour orange symbolizes Christian democratic political ideology,[2] and the colour yellow is most commonly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism.[3][4]

The political associations of a given colour vary from country to country, and there are exceptions to the general trends. For example, red has been previously associated to monarchy or the Church, and today it is also the colour associated with the conservative Republican Party in the United States.

Politicians making public appearances will often identify themselves by wearing rosettes, flowers or ties in the colour of their political party.


Black is primarily associated with anarchism[5] (see anarchist symbolism), fascism (see blackshirts and Schutzstaffel) and jihadism (see Black Standard).[3] Black is also a color frequently associated with the Pirate Parties.


Blue is usually associated with centre-right or conservative parties,[3] originating from its use by the Tories (predecessor of the Conservative Party) in the United Kingdom.[6]


Brown has been associated with Nazism because of the Sturmabteilung (SA), whose members were called "brownshirts". They were modeled on Benito Mussolini's blackshirts, and the colour was chosen because many brown uniforms intended for the colonial troops in Germany's African colonies were cheaply available after the end of World War I. In Europe and elsewhere, the colour brown is sometimes used to refer to fascists in general.[10]

  • Brown is sometimes used to describe the opposite of green parties, that is to describe parties that care little about pollution.[11]


  • Buff was the colour of the Whig faction in British politics from the early 18th century until the middle of the 19th century. As such, it is sometimes used to represent the current political left (in opposition to blue, which represented the Tories and then the Conservatives and political right).[original research?]



Green is the colour for both environmentalist[12] and Islamic political parties and movements (see green in Islam).[3]


Magenta is a colour that tends to replace yellow for liberal and centrist parties and organisations in Europe.[citation needed] It is not to be confused with the socialist or social democratic use of the colour pink.


Orange is the traditional colour of the Christian democratic political ideology and most Christian democratic political parties, which are based on Catholic social teaching and/or neo-Calvinist theology. Christian democratic political parties came to prominence in Europe and the Americas after World War II.[13][2]


Pink is sometimes used by social democratic parties, such as in France and Portugal.[citation needed] The more traditional colour of social democracy is red (because social democracy is descended from the democratic socialist movement), but some countries have large social democratic parties alongside large socialist or communist parties, so that it would be confusing for them all to use red.[original research?] In such cases, social democrats are usually the ones who give up red in favor of a different colour. Pink is often chosen because it is seen as a softer, less aggressive version of red, in the same way that social democracy is more centrist and less militant than socialism.[original research?] This is also the origin of the colloquial term "pinko".[citation needed]

  • In some European nations and the United States, pink is associated with homosexuality and the pink flag is used as a symbol in support of civil rights for LGBT people.[citation needed] This goes back to the Nazi German policy of appending pink triangles to the clothing of homosexual prisoners.[citation needed]


Although purple has some older associations with monarchism, it is the most prominent colour that is not traditionally connected to any major contemporary ideology. As such, it is sometimes used to represent a mix of different ideologies, or new protest movements that are critical of all previously-existing parties.[original research?]

  • Purple is often associated with feminism and when combined with black, is often used to represent anarcha-feminism.[citation needed]
  • In Brazil, purple is the color associated with some progressive liberal movements such as Cidadania and Livres. This color is chosen because those movements consider themselves to be mixing the best ideas of the left (associated with red) and the right (associated with blue)[original research?]
  • In Europe, purple tends to be used for movements, parties and governments that are neither clearly right nor left.[citation needed][original research?]
  • In Italy, purple has been adopted by anti-Silvio Berlusconi protesters (see Purple People) as an alternative from other colours and political parties.[citation needed]
  • In the United Kingdom, purple is associated with Euroscepticism, being the official colours of the UK Independence Party and the minor party Veritas.[original research?]
  • Purple is also unofficially used in the United States to denote a "swing state" (i.e. one contested frequently between the Republican Party, whose unofficial colour is red; and the Democratic Party, whose unofficial colour is blue). Purple is also used by centrists to represent a combination of beliefs belonging to the Republicans (red) and the Democrats (blue). It has also been used to reference Purple America, a term used in contrast to "blue" or "red", noting the electoral differences nationwide are observed more on discrepancies instead of unity (see red states and blue states).


Red is traditionally associated with socialism and communism.[3] The oldest symbol of socialism (and by extension communism) is the Red Flag, which dates back to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the revolutions of 1848. Before this nascence, the colour red was generally associated with monarchy or the Church due to the symbolism and association of Christ's blood. The colour red was chosen to represent the blood of the workers who died in the struggle against capitalism. All major socialist and communist alliances and organisations—including the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals—used red as their official colour. The association between the colour red and communism is particularly strong. Communists use red much more often and more extensively than other ideologies use their respective traditional colours.

  • In Europe and Latin America, red is also associated with parties of social democracy and often their allies within the labour movement.[citation needed] Sometimes these parties use pink instead, as a "moderate" colour instead of the more "radical" red, or "pink" used to describe the more moderate faction or membership within a left-wing party.[citation needed]
  • Red is also the traditional colour of liberal parties in Latin America and was the colour use, for example, in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay for liberal parties.[original research?]
  • In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, red is also the colour of the labour movement and the Labour (spelled Labor in Australia) parties in those countries. The use of red as a symbol is referenced in the British Labour Party's anthem, The Red Flag.[17]
    • In the heyday of the British Empire before 1960, maps, globes, and atlases typically used red or pink to designate the British Empire or its Commonwealth.[18] As soon as a colony became independent, it needed its own distinctive color and the practice died out.
  • Also in Brazil, red combined with black and white was formerly associated with Brazilian nationalism.[citation needed] The first incarnation of the agrarianist-centrist Social Democratic Party, both incarnations of the Brazilian Labour Party (the first a social democratic party, the current a populist one) and the Brazilian Democratic Movement use this color scheme. Red, Black and White are associated with the three races which form the ethnic composition of Brazil: the Amerindians (Red), the Afro-Brazilians (Black) and White Brazilians.[original research?]
  • A key exception to the convention of red to mean socialism is the United States. Since about the year 2000, the mass media have associated red with the Republican Party, despite the fact that the Republican Party is a conservative party (see red states and blue states).[8] This use is probably entrenched as many political organisations (for example the website RedState) now use the term. Any use of the color red exclusively to describe historically the Republican Party on anything prior to 2000 would be historically inaccurate and misleading.


  • In India, saffron is traditionally associated with Hinduism, Hindutva and the Hindu nationalist movement.[19] Saffron was chosen because in Hindu Sanatana Dharma, the deep saffron colour is associated with sacrifice, religious abstinence, quest for light and salvation. Saffron or "Bhagwa" is the most sacred colour for the Hindus and is often worn by Sanyasis who have left their home in search of the ultimate truth.


Turquoise has, in recent years, been associated with Euroscepticism as a result of several European parties that have proposed their respective nation's exit from the European Union.[citation needed][original research?]


White is today mainly linked to pacifism (as in the surrender flag)[3] and in politics of the United Kingdom to independent politicians such as Martin Bell.

  • Historically, it was associated with support for absolute monarchy, starting with the supporters of the Bourbon dynasty of France because it was the dynasty's colour.[citation needed] Later it was used by the Whites who fought against the communist "Reds" in the Russian Civil War, because some of the Russian "Whites" had similar goals to the French "Whites" of a century earlier (although, it is worth noting that the Whites included many different people with many ideologies, such as monarchists, liberals, and others).
    • Because of its use by anti-communist forces in Russia,[citation needed] the colour white came to be associated in the 20th century with many different anti-communist and counter-revolutionary groups,[citation needed] even those that did not support absolute monarchy (for example, the Finnish "Whites" who fought against the socialist "Reds" in the civil war following the independence of Finland). In some revolutions, red is used to represent the revolutionaries and white is used to represent the supporters of the old order, regardless of the ideologies or goals of the two sides.[citation needed]
  • In Italy a red cross on a white shield (scudo crociato) is the emblem of Catholic parties from the historical Christian Democracy party.[citation needed]
  • In Afghanistan, the Taliban reversed the Islamist schema, using black shahada on a white background (symbol of purity).[citation needed]


Yellow is the colour most strongly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism.[3][4][20]

By countryEdit

In this map of the 2012 United States presidential election results, the states are colour-coded by the political colour of the party whose candidate won their electoral college votes, but the political meanings of red and blue in the United States are the opposite of their meanings in the rest of the world.

Notable national political colour schemes include:

  • In Northern Ireland, the Unionist parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly are called the "orange block" and the Nationalist parties are the "green block".[citation needed]
    • Some of the established political parties use or have used different colour variations in certain localities. This was common in British politics up to the 1970s. The traditional colour of the Penrith and the Border Conservatives was yellow, rather than dark blue, even in the 2010 election Conservative candidates in Penrith and the neighbouring constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale wore blue and yellow rosettes. In North East England, the Conservatives traditionally used red, Labour green and the Liberals blue and orange. In parts of East Anglia, the Conservatives used pink and blue, whilst in Norwich their colours were orange and purple. The Liberals and Conservatives used blue and red respectively in West Wales, while in parts of Cheshire the Liberals were red and Labour yellow. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Tories used orange in Birmingham, pink in Whitby and red in East Worcestershire, whilst the Whigs were blue in Kendal, purple in Marlborough and orange in Wakefield.[23] The traditional colour of the Warwickshire Liberals was green, rather than orange.
  • In the United States the two major political parties use the national colours, i.e. red, white and blue. Historically, the only common situation in which it has been necessary to assign a single colour to a party has been in the production of political maps in graphical displays of election results. In such cases, there had been no consistent association of particular parties with particular colours. However, in the weeks following the 2000 election there arose the terminology of red states and blue states, in which the conservative Republican Party was associated with red and the liberal Democratic Party with blue. Political observers latched on to this association, which resulted from the use of red for Republican victories and blue for Democratic victories on the display map of a television network. In 2004, the association was mostly kept. As of November 2012, maps for presidential elections produced by the U.S. government also use blue for Democrats and red for Republicans.[24] In September 2010, the Democratic Party officially adopted an all-blue logo.[9] Around the same time, the official Republican website began using a red logo.
    • This association has potential to confuse foreign observers in that, as described above, red is traditionally a left-wing colour, while blue is typically associated with right-wing politics. This is further complicated by the diversity of factions in the Democratic Party ranging from conservatives to right-libertarians to democratic socialists alongside the dominant centrist and social liberal elements of the party that outside the United States often each use different political colors.
    • The conservative Blue Dog Coalition within the Democratic Party adopted the color blue at its founding before the 2000 election solidified the red-blue convention.
    • There is some historical use of blue for Democrats and red for Republicans: in the late 19th century and early 20th century, Texas county election boards used colour-coding to help Spanish speakers and illiterates identify the parties,[25] but this system was not applied consistently in Texas and was not picked up on a national level. For instance in 1888, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison used maps that coded blue for the Republicans, the colour Harrison perceived to represent the Union and "Lincoln's Party" and red for the Democrats.[26]
    • In the accounting world, red ink is used indicate a deficit (that is, spending exceeds income). Politicians often attack deficit spending as "being in the red." For example, Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole in 1996 denounced one of President Bill Clinton's proposals because it would impose new costs on small business. Dole said: "Now that the federal government is running in the red and state governments are faced with budget deficits that rise each year, the Democrats are looking for a new pocket to pick, and small business will fill that role."[27]
    • In Puerto Rico, the main conservative party, the New Progressive Party, uses blue, while the Popular Democratic Party uses red and the Puerto Rican Independence Party uses green.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sawer, Marian (1 May 2007). "Wearing your Politics on your Sleeve: The Role of Political Colours in Social Movements". Social Movement Studies. 6 (1): 39–56. doi:10.1080/14742830701251294. ISSN 1474-2837.
  2. ^ a b Min Reuchamps (17 December 2014). Minority Nations in Multinational Federations: A Comparative Study of Quebec and Wallonia. Routledge. p. 140. ISBN 9781317634720.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Adams, Sean; Morioka, Noreen; Stone, Terry Lee (2006). Color Design Workbook: A Real World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design. Gloucester, Mass.: Rockport Publishers. pp. 86. ISBN 159253192X. OCLC 60393965.
  4. ^ a b Kumar, Rohit Vishal; Joshi, Radhika (October–December 2006). "Colour, Colour Everywhere: In Marketing Too". SCMS Journal of Indian Management. 3 (4): 40–46. ISSN 0973-3167. SSRN 969272.
  5. ^ Sureyyya Evren, "Black Flag White Masks: Anti-Racism and Anarchist Historiography." Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action 8.1 (2014).
  6. ^ "Why is the Conservative Party blue?". BBC News. 20 April 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Blue is the colour of peace". Infochangeindia.org. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b David Starkey (2007). Living Blue in the Red States. University Press of Nebraska.
  9. ^ a b "Change That Matters". Democrats.org. 14 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 October 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  10. ^ Jean-Denis Lepage, Hitler's Stormtroopers: The SA, The Nazis’ Brownshirts, 1922-1945 (2016).
  11. ^ Antony Millner; Hélène Ollivier; Leo Simon (2016). "Policy experimentation, political competition, and heterogeneous beliefs". Journal of Public Economics. 120: 84–96. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2014.08.008.
  12. ^ Russell J. Dalton (1994). The Green Rainbow: Environmental Groups in Western Europe.
  13. ^ John Witte (1993). Christianity and Democracy in Global Context. Westview Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780813318431.
  14. ^ Taras Kuzio, Aspects of the Orange Revolution VI: Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions in Comparative Perspective (2007).
  15. ^ Electoral Commission (27 November 2007). "The Family Party - Applications to register party name and logo". Archived from the original on 27 January 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  16. ^ Electoral Commission (17 December 2007). "The Family Party registered, logo declined". Archived from the original on 27 January 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  17. ^ Peter Hitchens (26 March 2010). The Cameron Delusion. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-4411-2390-9.
  18. ^ Arthur Jay Klinghoffer (2006). The Power of Projections: How Maps Reflect Global Politics and History. Greenwood. p. 79. ISBN 9780275991357.
  19. ^ Véronique Bénéï (2005). Manufacturing Citizenship: education and nationalism in Europe, South Asia and China. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-36488-4.
  20. ^ Cassel-Picot, Muriel "The Liberal Democrats and the Green Cause: From Yellow to Green" in Leydier, Gilles and Martin, Alexia (2013) Environmental Issues in Political Discourse in Britain and Ireland. Cambridge Scolars Publishing. p.105. ISBN 9781443852838
  21. ^ Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, eds., Women's Periodicals in the United States: Social and Political Issues (Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press, 1996): 458, note 13.
  22. ^ "Branding". LP Action. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  23. ^ Jon Kelly (4 May 2015). "The seats where Tories weren't blue and Labour wasn't red". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  24. ^ "Historic Election Results". The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  25. ^ "Reds and Blues – The Handbook of Texas Online". Tshaonline.org. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  26. ^ Tara A. Rowe (13 January 2005). "The Political Game: The Red and Blue State Phenomenon". Politicalgame.blogspot.com. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  27. ^ Nicholas Laham (1996). A Lost Cause: Bill Clinton's Campaign for National Health Insurance. Greenwood. p. 84. ISBN 9780275956110.