Anti-establishment politics have become part of contemporary Western democracies. Less-educated citizens in particular have been found to display political distrust and populist attitudes, support populist parties, and abstain from voting. We advance a novel explanation for these patterns, drawing on extant theoretical insights to hypothesize that less- and more-educated citizens differ in the extent to which they perceive politicians to be culturally distant to them. Informed by our earlier in-depth qualitative research, we developed novel indicators of such perceptions and included them in a survey fielded among a high-quality panel representative of the Dutch population. We found: 1) positive associations between perceived cultural distance to politicians and political distrust, populist attitudes, the intention to vote for a populist party, and non-voting; and 2) that, overall, perceived cultural distance contributes substantially more to the educational gradient in anti-establishment political attitudes and behavior than the conventional rationalist and materialist approaches.