Erasmus Institute on Culture and Stratification

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What are we researching?

We investigate current social conflicts and social divisions, such as differences between the less and the more educated, and between supporters of different political parties. In doing so, we focus on a variety of themes:

  • How can we understand, for example, that less-educated citizens more often distrust politics, participate less in citizens’ initiatives, oppose climate measures more often, and are more often affected by health problems such as obesity?
  • Why are highly educated people in particular critical of vaccinations for their children?
  • What groups are opposed to each other in societal discussions about immigration and integration, welfare benefits, or the European Union?
  • How do young people define "good sex"?
  • And how can one understand that a large part of the population is hardly concerned about the greatly increased income inequality?

These kinds of questions are central to our research.

Why are we doing this research?

What drives opposing groups? This question is crucial to properly understand social conflicts and, for example, differences between less and more educated citizens. Our research team tries to find out how different groups themselves view controversial issues, why that is and how that drives their actions. This distinguishes our research from many other studies on the same themes.

How are we doing this research?

We use a variety of research methods. For example, to develop new explanations we conduct in-depth interviews and focus groups with small numbers of respondents, such as highly educated parents who do not have their children vaccinated. We also use methods by which we systematically examine the relevance of those theories. For example, we test our theories with questionnaires completed by a large number of people who constitute a random sample of the population.

How does our research make an impact?

Our research offers new insights because we study in-depth how certain social groups, for example members of the 'Yellow Vests' or young people, themselves view important social issues. These insights are relevant in several ways.

Our research helps to understand all kinds of societal discussions: who are the opposing sides in conflicts about the European Union or social security, for example? What exactly are their positions, and how can we understand these?

Furthermore, our research is relevant for policy makers. Not because we take positions on what should happen. But our research makes it clear under what circumstances certain policies do or do not lead to the desired outcomes.

For example, our research is relevant to initiatives aimed at behavioral change, such as eating healthier or exercising more. Our research shows why these initiatives work for certain groups and not for others. Ironically, well-intentioned campaigns turn out to encourage some groups to do just the opposite of what these interventions are trying to achieve. We show why.

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