A revolt of the deplored? The role of perceived cultural distance in the educational gradient in anti-establishment politics

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Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1448–1463
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Volume72
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Vidi grants awarded to Willem de Koster and Jeroen van der Waal by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) (grant numbers 016.Vidi.185.207 and 452‐17‐009)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. The British Journal of Sociology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of London School of Economics and Political Science.

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