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Attitudinal change in troubled times: A triangulation strategy

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New ways to study how contexts affect political behaviour

The study of how the contexts where people live change their political behaviour has difficulties in demonstrating causality. An EU initiative is exploring how income inequality and institutions drive political attitudes and behaviour combining traditional survey methods and novel experimental designs. This research can inform the design of economic and political institutions to reduce disaffection and alienation among citizens, and especially among the poor.


Citizens' attitudes and behaviour towards the political system largely depend on the economic or institutional contexts where they live. Because countries vary in many different respects, conventional research models are limited in their ability to demonstrate which specific policies and institutions can change individual political behaviour. To address the issue, the EU-funded TRIANGULATE (Attitudinal change in troubled times: A triangulation strategy) project examined the consequences of income inequality, the economic crisis, electoral procedures, and political polarization on the political attitudes of citizens and their political involvement. The project developed and applied an innovative strategy that combined the use of several methodological approaches and experiments to advance research in European political behaviour. Project partners focused on four strategic research questions. The first considered whether income inequality reduces social and political trust and who this affects most. A second asked how electoral institutions affect inequality in political participation and how the electoral participation of the poor can be increased. The third question is if political conflict on identity issues polarises national identities and whether certain citizens are protected from such polarisation. The final question looked at the circumstances under which corruption is more likely to be punished at the polls. Outcomes were disseminated at conferences and invited presentations. A book and three article were published in a leading presses and interdisciplinary journals devoted to the advancement of socioeconomics. A chapter was written that contributed to a book on experimental political science. Several working papers are also underway. TRIANGULATE has helped understand when individual citizens become disengaged from the political process and how institutional reforms and public policies can promote their involvement with a special focus on the poor. This is especially beneficial because it can produce insights on how to increase the satisfaction and involvement of the most disadvantaged European citizens.


Citizen attitudes, political behaviour, political attitudes, citizen politics, TRIANGULATE, attitudinal change

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