“Society is a mess”: disentangling discontent and intergroup threat in predicting protest responses to the refugee situation

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Over the last decades, people increasingly feel that society is heading in the wrong direction,while objective statistics about society indicate otherwise. To these people, current society seems to be performing badly on a whole range of dimensions, such as politics, crime,income differences, and antisocial behaviour. Populist politicians capitalize on this feeling of discontent and seem to gain popularity, and protests in Western countries seem to be mobilized by this discontent towards society. Since 2015, we have seen a rise in the number of public protests against refugees across Europe. In a longitudinal panel study (N = 2601; N= 1090), we investigated the impact of the migration situation that started in 2015 on refugee attitudes among Dutch citizens. Specifically, in explaining refugee policy support, we contrast frequently used predictors of attitudes towards migrants with predictors of societal discontent (e.g. distrust in politics and pessimism, fear and worries about society’s future).We find evidence that societal discontent negatively predicts refugee policy support, over and above citizen’s attitudes towards refugees. Furthermore, discontent seems an important predictor for protest behaviour against refugees, even when controlling for attitudes towards refugees. We therefore provide evidence that the negative responses from citizens to the European migration situation arose partly from an aversion to refugees, but almost just as much from a negative perception of the current and future state of society.
Event titleASPO conference 2019
Event typeConference
LocationWageningen, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational