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Perceptions of Changing Status Hierarchies in Open-Ended Survey Responses

Perceptions of Changing Status Hierarchies in Open-Ended Survey Responses

SpeakerMagdalena Breyer (University of Zurich)

Wednesday, February 8, 14:00–14:45 (Irish time)

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Abstract: The literature on changing electoral landscapes in advanced democracies pays increasing attention to individual status perceptions in the face of economic and social change. However, in survey-based research, we lack direct evidence on whether and how (changes in) wider social hierarchies are perceived. This paper shows how people describe a) those at the top/bottom of society, b) those gaining/losing status, and c) those perceived to deserve more/less status, in open-ended survey responses. Our results based on quantitative text analysis show that socioeconomic status criteria are dominant in people’s minds, but sociocultural groups matter for perceptions of dynamically changing hierarchies. Status gains, say, of women or minorities also appear most politically contested between subgroups. Substantively, we contribute by mapping perceptions of various aspects of social hierarchies. Conceptually, these differences between static/dynamic, socioeconomic/sociocultural, and contested/shared perceptions of status hierarchies matter for ongoing debates about how status perceptions shape political behavior.

About the speaker: Magdalena Breyer is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich. During the Fall semester 2021, she was a visiting PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam, in the Program Group Challenges to Democratic Representation. She received her M.A. in Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin, after studying in Freiburg and Krakow for her B.A. Her research is situated in the fields of political behavior, comparative politics and political sociology. Her PhD project investigates the implications of shifting social status hierarchies for political attitudes and behavior, with a focus on shifts in cultural structural hierarchies like gender and race/ethnicity.