Anti-elite parties and political inequality : how challenges to the political mainstream reduce income gaps in internal efficacy

There is growing interest in political inequality across income groups. This article contributes to this debate with two arguments about political involvement: poverty depresses internal political efficacy by undermining cognitive and emotional resources; and dissent in the party system reduces the efficacy gap to higher incomes. Specifically, conflict is to be expected between anti‐elite and mainstream parties to simplify political decisions and stimulate political attention among poor voters. These arguments are supported with comparative and experimental analyses. Comparative survey data shows that the income gap in efficacy varies with a novel measure of the anti‐elite salience in the party system. The causal impact of anti‐elite rhetoric is established though a representative survey experiment. Finally, the article investigates how these mechanisms affect both electoral and other forms of political participation.


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