This book uses empirical and theoretical enquiry to investigate the origins and prevalence of societal pessimism. Pessimism about the future of society has infiltrated Western political and public debates. However, there has been little scientific enquiry into these attitudes. Part I reveals how people describe their concerns in their own words. Part II explores differences in societal pessimism, both countries, and within countries over time,and to what extent such differences in societal pessimism can be explained by the political and economic context. Part III investigates how societal pessimism relates to various types of attitudes and behaviour that are vital for the functioning of democracy, namely voting behavior, political and civic participation, and identification with political-geographic groups.
Eefje Steenvoordenis assistant professor in political sociology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.