They are not like us. The perception of differentness,polarization amongst citizens and dissatisfaction withrepresentatives (2022 - 2025).


The project examines an hitherto under-examined driver of two of the main problemsrepresentative democracies are wrestling with: horizontal affective polarization amongcitizens and vertical political dissatisfaction with politicians. The ‘new’ driver is theperception that other-minded citizens and other-minded politicians are not onlypolitically different—they have other political preferences—but that they also aredifferent human beings with different social, cultural and economic features.

Ingroup-outgroup mechanisms make that such broad perceptions of differences leadto deepening intergroup animus. Although the theoretical logic of perceptualdifferences deepening dislike of others is not new, it has never been appliedempirically to the study of horizontal polarization and vertical dissatisfaction.

NOTLIKEUS engages in a broad and encompassing research program that (1) describesand conceptualizes citizens’ perception of differentness of other-mindedcitizens/politicians, (2) examines its causes, (3) analyses its effect on polarization anddissatisfaction, (4) investigates its ultimate effect on anti-democratic behaviour, and (5)explores possible solutions to the negative fall-out of high levels of perception ofdifferentness. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods, the projectexamines the Belgian case, a case that is suitable both theoretically and empirically.


FNRS/FWO – EoS (Excellence of Science)
Mis à jour le 3 août 2023