Lack of Representation and Recognition Leads to an Educational Divide in Political Dissatisfaction
In liberal democracies, many people have little trust in politics, abstain from voting, and support populist parties that oppose the established order. Why is there an educational divide in political dissatisfaction, particularly between the practically educated and theoretically educated individuals?
Traditionally, the educational divide in political dissatisfaction is explained through either lack of political knowledge among the practically educated, which leads to frustration, distrust in politicians, and lower political participation, or through the economic position of practically educated individuals, who blame politicians for their economic struggles and have fewer resources to engage in politics. While these explanations partially account for the educational divide, another factor plays a role. Practically educated individuals often feel that their views are not adequately represented in politics compared to the theoretically educated. The representation gap is attributed to the dominance of the higher-educated in political networks, decision-making, and candidate selection, creating a diploma democracy. The segregation between the lifestyles, language, and experiences of practically educated and theoretically educated individuals exacerbates the sense of exclusion and status difference. The recognition gap between these social strata, where the higher social status is accorded to the world of the theoretically educated, leads to a perceived lack of representation and exclusion from politics for practically educated individuals.
Noordzij, K. (2023), Revolt of the deplored: Perceived cultural distance and less-educated citizens’ political discontent, PhD thesis, Rotterdam: Erasmus University.