From societal discontent to action: an experimental approach

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


The arrival of refugees has caused turmoil in Europe. Political decisions about the handling of the influx and subsequent treatment of refugees have been met with resistance and protests from citizens, and they appear related to more resentment towards governments. We suggest that negative feelings towards government policies with respect to refugees do not only stem from attitudes towards refugees, but indirectly from societal discontent (the belief that society is doing badly as a whole) and social inequalities. In a large representative survey of Dutch people, action intentions, negative attitudes towards refugees and migration policies were predicted using a social-psychological framework. We find that conceptualisations of societal discontent (relative deprivation, political distrust, and negative (meta-)stereotypes regarding elites) predict a negative attitude towards refugees, and indirectly negative attitudes towards migration policies. In follow- up research, we focus on societal discontent, compare different conceptualisations of this phenomenon, and experimentally manipulate the perception that society is doing badly. With this approach, we aim to understand how a rather broad feeling of societal discontent can fuel specific protests against, for example, refugees. Our idea is that societal events, such as the arrival of refugees, can be a trigger that mobilizes and focuses general societal discontent.
Event titleEASP Group meeting "Polarization, Populism, Political Alienation: Causes
and Consequences of Social Diversity and Inequality?"
Event typeConference
LocationLandau, GermanyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational