Satisfied unlike me? How the perceived difference with close network contacts prevents radical and protest voting

Retour aux publications
Emilien Paulis and Marco Ognibene
Palgrave Macmillan
Acta Politica


Fitting with a common scheme across European democracies, the last election in Belgium led radical (left and right) parties to increase their vote share. One of the key drivers of the radical vote is political dissatisfaction (Droste 2011). Yet, the latter does not always translate into radical or protest voting behaviors. Using the 2019s RepResent Belgian Elections Study, we show the moderating effect of close social contacts in this relationship. For dissatisfied voters who believe that most contacts are similarly discontent, the probability to vote for radical parties (or, if not, to adopt other protest behaviors) is reinforced. However, the odds decrease the more they perceive their contacts different from themselves, i.e., as politically satisfied voters. Then, they become more likely to avoid protest/radical choices and to vote for institutionalized parties. Overall, our study yields findings showing that voting behaviors should be studied by considering also the voters’ social networks, which seem to exert a role in defining the acceptability of voting choices. What matters is not only how one perceives politics but also how one believes his close contacts perceive politics too.