- Societal pessimism: A study of its conceptualization, causes, correlates and consequences
- Award date
- 1 June 2016
- Number of pages
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
What explains the pessimism about the state of society among citizens? In recent years, the public debate in many Western countries has discussed the sentiment that society is heading in the wrong direction. Yet, little is known about this attitude. This dissertation aims to further our knowledge of the concern about society in contemporary Western countries. It evolves around three overarching questions: What is this concern about society, what are its causes, and what are its correlates and consequences? The study presents a new conceptualization of the attitude by defining two concepts: societal pessimism and societal unease. While the former is universally applicable, the latter focuses on this sentiment in Western countries specifically. Also measures of these two concepts are developed and validated, which can be used in future research. In addition, this study explores which groups of citizens are particularly societally pessimistic, how societal pessimism differs from other social concepts, and how it is expressed in people’s own words.
In terms of causes, this book examines whether societal pessimism is a cultural characteristic of Western societies, or is instead rooted in actual societal degradation. The results point to the latter, showing that political and economic factors drive societal pessimism, both cross-nationally and longitudinally. Finally, this book underlines that societal pessimism is not without consequences, by showing its relationship with attitudes and behaviors that are vital for the functioning of democracy. Societal pessimism increases the chance of voting for populist radical right parties, inhibits identification with multiple political-geographic groups concurrently, and is associated with higher protest participation but lower institutional political participation and civic participation.
- Research conducted at: Universiteit van Amsterdam
Series: SCP publication 2016-11
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