New study finds 63% of incels identify as left-leaning or centrist, challenging right-wing stereotype

Contrary to popular perceptions, a new study reveals that approximately 63% of Involuntary Celibates (Incels) self-reported a left-leaning or centrist political affiliation.

In a new study titled “Predicting Harm Among Incels (Involuntary Celibates): The Roles of Mental Health, Ideological Belief, and Social Networking,” researchers from the Swansea University and the University of Texas at Austin have examined the world of incels, or involuntary celibates.

This sub-culture consists of people who identify themselves based on their inability to form sexual or romantic relationships, often expressing misogynistic sentiments and frustrations towards society.

The study is the largest survey on incels to date, with a total of 561 participants from the United Kingdom (199) and the USA (362).

A brief history of inceldom

The term “involuntary celibate” was initially coined in 1997 as “invcel,” which later evolved to “incel” as it was easier to pronounce.

The core belief shared by many incels today is that feminism has negatively impacted men, creating what they consider a crisis state for masculinity and male identity.

The first incel-related subreddit, /r/ForeverAlone, was established in 2010, and curently has about 187,000 members.

The movement gained significant momentum in the following years, particularly with the creation of another subreddit, /r/Incels, which was later banned in 2017 due to its controversial content.

The ban did not eradicate the movement but rather dispersed it across other subreddits and various forums outside of Reddit, including

Study participants

The study participants were predominantly in their mid-twenties, with the majority identifying as heterosexual and childless, and self-identifying as “involuntarily celibate” in terms of relationship status.

Ethnically, while the majority were white, the group was notably diverse, with 42% of participants identifying as people of color.

Socioeconomically, most fell into the middle to lower middle class categories, and educationally, a significant portion had attained some level of post-secondary education, with living situations split between those residing with parents and those renting independently.

Employment data showed a varied distribution, with 18% classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training), 42% employed full-time, and 16% engaged in full-time education.

The average height reported was 174 cm, or 5’8.5”, which approximates the average male height in the US and the UK.

Participants were recruited through a combination of social media, podcast promotion, and incel forums.

Interested people were directed to a website containing the study’s mission statement and information about the researchers.

Participants were also offered compensation or £20 for UK residents or $20 for US residents.

This payments logistics ensured that the researchers had no access to the participants’ personal data.

Some participants chose not to complete the payment form, fearing misuse of their personal data, and these participants were given the option to have their compensation donated to a men’s mental health charity (Movember).

About 23% of participants chose this option.

Political Orientation of Incels: A Surprising Lean

One of the most surprising findings of the study is the political orientation of incels.

Contrary to common perceptions that link incels with far-right ideologies, the survey reveals that incels, on average, lean slightly left of center.

Approximately 63% of incels self-reported a left-leaning or centrist political affiliation, indicating a diverse range of political beliefs within the community that does not align neatly with the far-right.

The 63% figure is at odds with the stereotype of incels as predominantly right-wing, a stereotype that has been fueled by high-profile incidents of violence, overlaps with right-wing online spaces, and strong anti-feminist sentiments.

This finding is based on responses to a political orientation measure adapted from the Pew Research Centre, which presented participants with 10 pairs of statements on various political issues, ranging from immigration to government regulation and social benefits.

The results showed that the only right-leaning views majority of incels agreed with were that ‘Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient’ and the belief that ‘Ethnic minorities who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition.’

Yet they were substantially left of center on issues regarding homosexuality, corporate profits, and social benefits, with a notable discrepancy in the group’s stance on homosexuality compared to the homophobic language found in incel forums.

Mental Health and Ideological Beliefs

The survey also highlights significant concerns regarding the mental health of incels, with more than a third of the participants meeting the criteria for moderate depression (39%) and anxiety (43%), according to NHS diagnostic tools.

A significant portion of the community also experiences high levels of loneliness, with 48% of participants indicating the highest level of loneliness on the survey’s scale.

In terms of ideological beliefs, there is a general consensus among incels on certain narratives, such as the “80/20 rule,” which suggests that 80% of women are attracted only to the top 20% of men.

This belief is shared by almost two-thirds of the survey participants, indicating a widespread acceptance of certain ideologies within the community.

Networking and Community Dynamics

The study also explores the networking habits and community dynamics of incels, revealing that the most common platforms for communication within the last year were anonymous forums (e.g., 4chan) and registered social media, including forums like and Twitter.

Interestingly, about 18% of respondents reported in-person communication with another incel in the past year, challenging the notion that incels exist solely within online spaces.

Implications for Policy and Intervention

This research offers valuable insights for policymakers and practitioners involved in preventing and countering violent extremism.

The nuanced understanding of the incel community’s political orientation, mental health challenges, and community dynamics can inform more targeted and effective intervention strategies.

Specifically, the diverse political affiliations within the incel community suggest the need for a tailored approach in counter-messaging interventions, while the significant mental health issues highlight the importance of offering psychosocial support as part of any intervention package.