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The Age of Hostility: Understanding the Nature, Dynamics, Determinants, and Consequences of Citizens' Electoral Hostility in 27 Democracies


‘I hate Brexiteers, they betrayed my future’. Those words of an 18 year old on Brexit Referendum Night represent a growing and worrying phenomenon: electoral hostility. Electoral disagreements have long been seen as results of social divisions, but recent research shows that they have become a basis of antagonism in their own right in the US. Two comparative pilots I ran also found electoral hostility widespread in recent French and British elections but rare in South Africa and Australia. In the UK Brexit referendum, 51% of citizens felt anger towards opposite voters and 46% disgust.

I define electoral hostility as negative feelings (frustration, anger, contempt, disgust) held towards individuals or groups as a result of their effective or perceived electoral preferences. It may occur in the campaign, post-election, and reinforce into self-perpetuating cycles of hostility as it is structured as a Mokken scale which can become ‘stages’ of hostility. While scepticism of political elites is well-studied, hostility towards fellow voters takes electoral negativity to a new level. Electoral hostility may have far reaching consequences, leading citizens to resent one another due to electoral stances and drift apart in increasingly divided societies, but also to the delegitimization of electoral outcomes and negative attitudes towards solidarity.

ELHO will answer the following research question: What are the causes and consequences of electoral hostility at individual, group, and aggregate levels and how does it develop over time? The project’s innovative methods combine a 27 country multi-level panel survey, visual, physiological and field experiments, election diaries, family focus groups, a scoping survey of Election Management Bodies, and campaign and atmosphere coding. The project will also explore possible mitigation in ambitious partnership with psychiatrists, ergonomists, lawyers, EMBs and IGOs creating new Electoral Hostility Research Centre and Observatory.


Net EU contribution
€ 2 499 838,00
Houghton street 1
WC2A 2AE London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — West Westminster
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)