ERC Consolidator Grant 2019 POLINEQUAL

The Politicisation of Economic Inequality: The Impact of Welfare Regimes, Elites’ Discourse and Media Frames on Citizens’ Perceptions, Justice Evaluations and Political Behaviour 

POLINEQUAL is a comparative research project which focuses on understanding the causes and political consequences of citizens’ perceptions of economic inequality in France, Great Britain and Sweden. It is affiliated with the Université Grenoble Alpes, PACTE and Sciences Po Grenoble UGA. Financed for the duration of 60 months, it has started on October 1st 2020 (2020-2025). 

This project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 866340-Polinequal-ERC-2019-COG






POLINEQUAL aims to investigate the causes and mechanisms that motivate citizens to respond to economic inequality. Conceptually, it is based on four central assumptions:


Perceptions of economic inequality are biased as they are mediated by justice evaluations and, thus, do not mirror objective levels of economic inequality.


Perceptions of economic inequality are informed by facts, ideological cues, media representations and personal heuristics.


Perceptions and evaluations are malleable to the extent that economic inequality is being politicized and becomes politically salient.


Politically salient perceptions and evaluations of economic inequality evoke emotional, attitudinal and behavioural responses.

In POLINEQUAL’s conceptualisation, perceptions of economic inequality – and justice evaluations that instil them – originate from social norms that are deeply rooted in the ‘moral economies’ of welfare regimes and malleable as a function of individual exposure to and receptivity of facts, ideological cues, representations and heuristics of economic inequality.

In principle, the project pursues two paths:

It investigates the nature of interrelationships between media representations, ideological cues and individual perceptions and evaluations of economic inequality and to what extent the latter are conditioned by collectively shared distributive justice norms.

It investigates the impact of politically salient individual perceptions and evaluations of inequality on emotions and political behaviour. Its aim is to develop a theoretical framework which explains the causes and mechanisms of individual perceptions of economic inequality being contingent on national institutional arrangements, ideological cues, media frames and personal heuristics.

The research design is based on a mixed-methods approach, organized in five work packages and combining data derived from online focus groups, discourse and content analysis of party programmes and media representations, representative online surveys and experimental studies.