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Concerned about inequality? The political salience of economic inequality among voters and political parties

Economic inequality is rising in most democracies: the gap between the incomes of the wealthiest part of the population and the rest is widening. Despite high and rising inequality, and its pressure on redistributive welfare states, there is no systematic evidence that inequality leads to redistributive policies or public demands for such policies. We are confronted with a paradox: Most citizens and politicians realise that inequality exists and is not desirable, yet little is done about it. Further, we lack clear knowledge about when and how citizens and politicians react to inequality between countries and over time. In this project, I therefore examine the inequality concerns of citizens and political parties based on three objectives. The project investigates (1) if (changes) in inequality levels shape citizens’ inequality perceptions and preferences over time, (2) when and how political parties discuss inequality, and its repercussions for public opinion, and (3) the influence of inequality on citizens’ voting behaviour. To study these objectives, I collect and analyse survey and experimental data on citizens’ inequality perceptions and preferences, and party manifesto and social media data on political parties’ inequality concerns. By building on insights from cleavage theory, and by using a variety of cutting-edge methods, this project sheds an original light on the interplay between citizens, political parties, and inequality across liberal democracies and over time.

Date:1 Oct 2023 →  Today
Keywords:Inequality perceptions, Redistributive preferences, Voting behaviour
Disciplines:Political inequality, Political engagement, political participation, Public opinion, Voting behaviour