The political associations of a given colour vary from country to country, and there are exceptions to the general trends. For example, red has historically been associated with monarchy or the Church, but over time gained association with leftist politics, while the United States differs from other countries in that conservativism is associated with red and liberalism with blue.
Politicians making public appearances will often identify themselves by wearing rosettes, flowers or ties in the colour of their political party.
During the golden age of piracy, the black flags of pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack became popular symbols of piracy. The flags representing death and no quarter to those who did not surrender. The black flag of the jolly roger, used by Calico Jack turned into a popular and recognizable symbol of pirates, particularly of pirates of the Americas. The skull and bones also became a hazardous symbol to display poisons such as cyanide, Zyklon B and other toxic substances. The black flag of piracy would later influence the symbols of anarchism, such as the symbols of the Free territory and Kronstadt rebellion. The rise of internet piracy led to the symbols of the golden age of piracy becoming widely adopted, becoming the symbols of pirate sites such as the Pirate bay. Black becoming a colour to represent pirate parties.
In the Republic of Ireland, blue is associated with the centre-right Fine Gael party, going back to the Blueshirts, a quasi-fascist uniformed group that merged into the party in 1932. "Blueshirt" is a common derogatory term for Fine Gael, and they often use blue in party materials.
In most of Latin America, blue is used as a colour of anti-feminism and, more specifically, anti-abortion. This colour was used as a response to the feminist/pro-abortion green. This originated in Argentina.
Brown is sometimes used to describe the opposite of green parties, that is to describe parties that care little about pollution.
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).
Grey is sometimes used by parties that represent the interests of pensioners and senior citizens, such as "The Greys" in Germany.
In Iran, green has been used by the Iranian Green Movement, a political movement that arose after the 2009 Iranian presidential election, in which protesters demanded the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from office.
Magenta is a colour that tends to replace yellow for liberal and centrist parties and organisations in Europe. It is not to be confused with the socialist or social democratic use of the colour pink.
In Germany although the official colour of the left-wing party Die Linke is red, mass media uses magenta as the party colour to prevent confusion with the centre-left Social Democratic Party whose party colour is red.
Orange since 2004 has represented Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions in Eastern Europe such as the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine. This gave the colour orange a certain association with radical anti-authoritarian politics in some countries and it has been used as such by groups and organizations in the Middle East, for example in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Bahrain and Israel.
In Israel, the color orange has become the dominant color of the right-wing , with an emphasis on the religious-right. This is when, from 2004, the color became the leader of a protest against the disengagement plan, and became identified with the right-wing camp.
Orange is often used to represent the mutualist current in anarchist politics, as a middle ground between pro-market currents such as anarcho-capitalism (associated with the colour yellow of liberalism) and anti-capitalist currents such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism (associated with the colour red of communism and socialism).
In Canada, Orange is the official colour of the social-democratic New Democratic Party. During Jack Layton's leadership green was used as their accent colour; The logo was a green maple leaf with orange "NDP" lettering. Currently light blue is used as their accent colour although it seldom appears and is not included in the logo (the current logo is an orange maple leaf with orange "NDP" lettering).
In New Zealand, the Electoral Commission rejected a proposed orange logo for being likely to confuse or mislead voters by being too similar to the colour used by the country's electoral agencies.
In Spain, orange is used by Citizens, a liberal party that opposes Catalan separatism. This is in contrast to the yellow used by Catalan separatism (see below).
Pink is sometimes used by social democratic parties, such as in France and Portugal. 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. 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 capitalistic than socialism.
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, it is commonly used to represent queer anarchism. This use originates in Nazi German policy of appending pink triangles to the clothing of homosexual prisoners.
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.
In Brazil, purple is the colour associated with some progressive liberal movements such as Cidadania and Livres. This colour 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)
In Europe, purple tends to be used for movements, parties and governments that are neither clearly right nor left. The colour is also used by the European federalist party Volt.
Purple is also unofficially used in the United States to denote a "swing state", swing district, or county. (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).
In Peru, the Purple Party is a liberal party which chose purple as colour to represent centrism, between the blue of the right and red of the left.
In the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Liberation Party logo is a yellow five-pointed star on a purple background. It was originally a leftist party but today the party is seen gravitating towards a more centrist platform.
Left-wing protester wielding a red flag, a symbol of socialism, on May Day.
Red is often associated with the left, especially socialism and communism. 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.
Red is also the traditional colour of liberal parties in Latin America and was the colour used, for example, in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay for liberal parties.
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.
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. This derived from the Redcoats traditionally worn by the British Army. As soon as a colony became independent, it needed its own distinctive colour and the practice died out.
Saffron is traditionally associated with Hinduism, Hindutva and the Hindu nationalist movement. Saffron was chosen because in Hinduism, 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.
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. Partly due to this association, white also came to be associated with Jacobitism, itself allied with the Bourbons. White cockades, white ladies' gloves, and Rosa pimpinellifolia (the 'burnet' or 'Stuart' rose) symbolised support for the exiled House of Stuart. 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, anticommunist social democrats and others).
Because of its use by anti-communist forces in Russia, the colour white came to be associated in the 20th century with many different anti-communist and counter-revolutionary groups, 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.
In Italy a red cross on a white shield (scudo crociato) is the emblem of Catholic parties from the historical Christian Democracy party.
In the politics of the United Kingdom, white represents independent politicians such as Martin Bell.
In Latin America, it is not unusual for left-wing social democratic parties to use yellow, as red was the traditional colour of liberals, especially in countries with prominent red-using liberal parties like Uruguay, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica.
In the United States, the colour yellow was the official colour of the suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 21st century, the Libertarian Party's official branding colours are gold-yellow, grey, and black. The gold-yellow colour is prominent because of the historical association with classical liberalism and in reference to a gold-backed currency and free markets.
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:
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. 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. Between the early 1970s and 1992, most television networks used blue to denote states carried by the Democratic Party and red to denote states carried by the Republican Party in presidential elections. A unified colour scheme (blue for Democrats, red for Republicans) began to be implemented with the 1996 presidential election; in the weeks following the 2000 election, there arose the terminology of red states and blue states. 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. As of November 2012, maps for presidential elections produced by the U.S. government also use blue for Democrats and red for Republicans. In September 2010, the Democratic Party officially adopted an all-blue logo. 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 (as used with the Democratic Socialists of America), 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 colours.
The conservative Blue Dog Coalition within the Democratic Party adopted the colour 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, 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.
^Kumar, Rohit Vishal; Joshi, Radhika (October–December 2006). "Colour, Colour Everywhere: In Marketing Too". SCMS Journal of Indian Management. 3 (4): 40–46. ISSN0973-3167. SSRN969272.
^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 Scholars Publishing. p. 105. ISBN9781443852838