This article attempts to advance the recent discussion in this journal about the alleged growth of a ‘diploma democracy’ by introducing insights from theory of group relations, as well as presenting new empirical data. At the theoretical level, we argue that the relationship between the higher and lower educated should be seen as an asymmetric group relation. Such a relationship is unlikely to result in open educational conflict, without implying the complete absence of frustrations and tensions between groups defined on the obtained educational level. At the empirical level, we report on the results of a survey project in Flanders, allowing us to investigate to what extent the public opinion perceives educational conflict and demonstrate that this perception is consistently related to support for a core element of contemporary populism.
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To increase the concept validity of our scale, we replaced the item ‘the interests of people with low and people with high education are often the same’ by the item ‘people with high and low education do not understand each other well’. Furthermore, we did not use the item ‘people with high/low education often want to lead society in a wrong direction’ because while testing the questionnaire several respondents wondered what we meant with ‘a wrong direction’.
Due to their high correlation, both attitudes were combined. Results for both lack of political efficacy and anti-democratic sentiment separately are available upon request.
The findings should not be interpreted at face value, as they reflect agreement with items formulated by the researchers. Hakhverdian et al (2012) emphasised correctly that at present no political party uses this to rally support.
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Spruyt, B. An asymmetric group relation? An investigation into public perceptions of education-based groups and the support for populism. Acta Polit 49, 123–143 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/ap.2013.9
- group relations