They are not like us. The perception of differentness, polarization amongst citizens and dissatisfaction with representatives

Project Details


The project examines an hitherto under-examined driver of two of the main problems representative
democracies are wrestling with: horizontal affective polarization among citizens and vertical political
dissatisfaction with politicians. The ‘new’ driver is the perception that other-minded citizens and other-minded
politicians are not only politically different—they have other political preferences—but that they also are
different human beings with different social, cultural and economic features. Ingroup-outgroup mechanisms make that such broad perceptions of differences lead to deepening intergroup animus. Although the theoretical
logic of perceptual differences deepening dislike of others is not new, it has never been applied empirically to
the study of horizontal polarization and vertical dissatisfaction. NOTLIKEUS engages in a broad and
encompassing research program that (1) describes and conceptualizes citizens’ perception of differentness of
other-minded citizens/politicians, (2) examines its causes, (3) analyses its effect on polarization and
dissatisfaction, (4) investigates its ultimate effect on anti-democratic behaviour, and (5) explores possible
solutions to the negative fall-out of high levels of perception of differentness. Drawing on both qualitative and
quantitative methods, the project examines the Belgian case, a case that is suitable both theoretically and
Short title or EU acronymNOTLIKEUS
Effective start/end date1/01/2231/12/25


  • Polarization
  • dissatisfaction

Flemish discipline codes

  • Political communication
  • Political psychology
  • Public opinion
  • Political campaigns
  • Political engagement, political participation
  • Party politics
  • Group and interpersonal processes
  • Social perception and cognition