Here you find an overview of our publications (in Dutch and English) about Dutch culture wars in journals, columns, and newspapers.

‘They don’t know what it’s like for us’: Why citizens with lower levels of education feel political discontent

Kjell Noordzij, Willem de Koster & Jeroen van der Waal

LSE EUROPP (February 19, 2021)

Previous research suggests that citizens with lower levels of education are more likely to express dissatisfaction with politics. Drawing on new research in the Netherlands, Kjell Noordzij, Willem de Koster and Jeroen van der Waal explain why the distance these citizens feel from politicians fosters their discontent.

Lageropgeleiden wantrouwen politici die ver afstaan van hun leefwereld

Kjell Noordzij, Willem de Koster & Jeroen van der Waal

Sociale Vraagstukken (7 januari 2021)

Diepgaande gesprekken met lager opgeleide burgers leggen diepgewortelde gevoelens van afstand tot politici bloot. Deze afstand blijkt een belangrijke reden voor hun politiek wantrouwen.

Photo: Minister-President Rutte (Flickr Creative Commons)

“They don’t know what it’s like to be at the bottom”: Exploring the role of perceived cultural distance in less‐educated citizens’ discontent with politicians

Kjell Noordzij, Willem de Koster &  Jeroen van der Waal

Peer-reviewed journal article in British Journal of Sociology (December 27, 2020)


Why is discontent with politicians highest among less‐educated citizens? Supplementing explanations concerning a lack of resources and knowledge, we examine the cultural distance to many a politician perceived by this group. Inspired by qualitative studies mapping the worldviews of people from the lower social strata, we explore less‐educated citizens’ perceptions of politicians using in‐depth (group) interviews carried out in various regions of the Netherlands (n = 26). Our analysis indicates that this group regards politicians as culturally distant “others” and that this perception goes hand in hand with specific negative evaluations of politicians. This improves our understanding of the much‐reported political discontent of these citizens. In moving beyond the often mentioned unspecific divide between the “people” and the “elite”, our analysis reveals that our interviewees: (i) consider politicians to be insensitive to the lived experiences of the “common” people, and therefore, question their legitimacy and the policies they propose; (ii) resent their communication styles, which they describe as “beating about the bush” and perceive to be emblematic of indecisiveness and a lack of integrity; and (iii) accuse them of superiority signaling, inspiring feelings of misrecognition and opposition. We conclude with detailing the implications of our findings for (future) research.

Politiek onbehagen onder lager opgeleiden

Kjell Noordzij, Vivian VisserWillem de KosterJeroen van der Waal

Sociologie Magazine (September 2020)

Vaak wordt opgemerkt dat er in Nederland veel vertrouwen in de politiek is. Maar onder veel lager opgeleiden leeft juist wantrouwen. Diepgaande gesprekken bieden inzicht in deze kloof tussen burgers en politiek.

Photo: Sokin (Flickr Creative Commons)

Photo: Bas van der Schot (Erasmus Magazine)

‘Even the milk you pour in your coffee is part of the culture war’

Willem de Koster

Erasmus Magazine (December 12, 2019)

How do you prevent a heated discussion with your uncle during Christmas dinner? Cultural sociologist Willem de Koster explains how you can safely navigate between the cliffs in these times of polarisation.

Lageropgeleiden die politici wantrouwen: verzet tegen culturele superioriteit?

Kjell Noordzij, Jeroen van der Waal & Willem de Koster

Sociale Vraagstukken (10 mei 2019)

Het wantrouwen in politici wordt niet enkel gevoed door wat politici vinden, maar ook door de culturele superioriteit die zij zichzelf met name volgens lageropgeleiden toedichten met hun progressieve culturele opvattingen.

Photo: Mike Andrews (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Educational Gradient in Trust in Politicians in the Netherlands: A Status-Based Cultural Conflict

Kjell Noordzij, Jeroen van der Waal & Willem de Koster

Peer-reviewed journal article in The Sociological Quarterly (April 3, 2019)


Much of the educational gradient in trust in politicians remains unexplained by prevailing theories on material resources and institutional knowledge. Our novel explanation theorizes that: in its relationship with trust in politicians, education is a status indicator; and the lower trust in politicians among the less educated reflects the latter’s opposition to the former’s status signaling. Analyses of representative Dutch survey data (n = 1,296) demonstrate that indicators of affinity with elite culture do indeed largely underlie the association between the level of education and trust in politicians. We discuss the relevance of our findings for debates on “culture wars.”