Sonja Zmerli


Institution d’accueil : Sciences Po Grenoble (Grenoble Institute of Political Studies)

Laboratoire : PACTE

Appel à projets : Consolidator (SH3)

Nom du projet : POLINEQUAL – The Politicisation of Economic Inequality: The Impact of Welfare Regimes, Elites’ Discourse and Media Frames on Citizens’ Perceptions, Justice Evaluations and Political Behaviour

Montant : 1.84 M€


POLINEQUAL aims to investigate the causes and mechanisms that motivate citizens to respond to economic inequality. Conceptually, it is based on the assumptions that 1) perceptions of economic inequality are biased as they are mediated by justice evaluations and, thus, do not mirror objective levels of economic inequality, 2) perceptions of economic inequality are informed by facts, ideological cues, media representations or personal heuristics, 3) perceptions and evaluations are malleable to the extent that economic inequality is being politicized and becomes politically salient, and 4) politically salient perceptions and evaluations of economic inequality evoke emotional, attitudinal and behavioural responses. In my conceptualization, perceptions of inequality – and justice evaluations that instil them – originate from social norms that are deeply rooted in the ‘moral economies’ of welfare regimes and are malleable as a function of individual exposure to and receptivity of facts, ideological cues, representations and heuristics of economic inequality. POLINEQUAL pursues two paths. First, it investigates the nature of interrelationship between media representations, ideological cues and individual perceptions and evaluations of economic inequality and to what extent the latter are conditioned by collectively shared distributive justice norms. Second, it investigates the impact of politically salient individual perceptions and evaluations of inequality on emotions and political behavior. Its aim is to develop a theoretical framework which explains the causes and mechanisms of individual perceptions of income inequality being contingent on national institutional arrangements, ideological cues, media frames and personal heuristics and destabilizing democracies. The research design is based on a mixed-methods approach, organized in different stages and combining data derived from focus groups, discourse and content analysis, an online survey and an experimental study

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