Economically unequal but democratically satisfied? Income inequality, democratic satisfaction, and the moderating role of education
This thesis aims at explaining the way in which income inequality influences assessments of democratic satisfaction. It does so by incorporating insights from recent works on research about satisfaction with democracy. The theories state that despite the rise of income inequality, and the increased discussion on democratic malaise, the levels of democratic satisfaction tend to stay stable. A closer look shows that this stability masks underlying growing divergences in the trends by levels of education, with the higher educated becoming more satisfied, and the satisfaction of the lower educated stagnating. I study this relationship by using a multi-level analysis with data from the European Social Survey and incorporating indicators that are usually not employed in these studies. I find out that, despite income inequality seemingly not influencing democratic satisfaction in general terms, the higher educated citizens show a negative response to higher levels of income inequality, decreasing their democratic satisfaction. These results are unable to explain the satisfaction gap but point out that democratic regimes might be at risk of losing what has become their main source of support. Keywords: Democratic satisfaction, Income inequality, Education, European Union, Postmaterialism.
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