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.
In addition to the explanation for the educational divide in political dissatisfaction, recent research, including Dr. Francesco Marolla's insights, suggests another contributing factor. Marolla's findings indicate that weaknesses in liberal institutions contribute to the appeal of populist parties, potentially exacerbating the sense of exclusion and lack of representation felt by practically educated individuals.
According to Marolla, populism fills representational gaps for marginalized groups while challenging principles of liberal democracy. Social marginalization, economic vulnerability, anti-institutional sentiments, and responses to immigration policies influence support for populist parties. Improving social protection mechanisms and addressing socioeconomic inequality can help to integrate marginalized segments into mainstream debate and reduce the appeal of populist parties. Institutional arrangements in liberal democracies can either amplify or diminish the allure of populist movements. Policies to enhance citizens' institutional awareness can help counter populist influence.
Marolla, F. (2023), Why do European citizens support populism? A comparative study of demand-side and supply-side explanations,PhD thesis, Open Press Tilburg University.
Noordzij, K. (2023), Revolt of the deplored: Perceived cultural distance and less-educated citizens’ political discontent, PhD thesis, Rotterdam: Erasmus University.