Misperception of Social Realities: Political Implications

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-8-91-101
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation;
G. Monusova (g.monusova@gmail.com),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. The socio-economic and political behavior of individuals is largely shaped by how they perceive the reality. These perceptions often differ from objective facts. This gives rise to perception errors that can significantly affect the economic and political environment. In modern societies, people worry the most about migration, unemployment, income inequality, etc. The paper analyzes misconceptions that arise around those issues: people tend to exaggerate the level of unemployment, the scale of migration, the degree of income differentiation. The authors conclude that it is possible to avoid some of those misconceptions. To do so, the authorities should provide citizens with reliable information about the most important socio-economic processes. Otherwise, perception errors can make individuals lose their sense of stability and security and decrease their level of life satisfaction. These errors can also lead to growth in xenophobic mood, dissatisfaction with government actions, protests, and to an increase in support for radical right and left parties. In addition to that, the authors study the connection between subjective perception of reality and growing support for populism. The empirical analysis shows that the electoral support of populists in a number of European countries is due to the perceived scale of migration, rather than the actual one. Unreasonable fears associated with the influx of migrants, general dissatisfaction with life, pessimism about the future largely provided support for the decision on Brexit, D. Trump’s victory, M. Le Pen’s exit in the second round of the presidential election in France and the formation of a right-left government coalition in Italy. The authors conclude that the shifts in voters’ preferences are closely connected with people’s subjective views on socio-economic phenomena. Worsening subjective social well-being of citizens can lead to changes in the political environment. Hence, to understand the processes that occur in modern society it is important to study subjective perceptions and how they are formed.

Keywords: subjective well-being, life satisfaction, perception, misperception, unemployment, migration, inequality, populism


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For citation:
Goffe N., Monusova G. Misperception of Social Realities: Political Implications. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, no. 8, pp. 91-101. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-8-91-101

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