Politicised Wokeness, Residential Mobility, and Spatial Polarisation

Research question/goal: 

Within a remarkably short time, “wokeness” has developed into one the most salient and polarising labels in contemporary politics. Given the increased salience and affective capacity of (anti-)wokeness in present-day political conflict, this project sets out to study the politicisation of wokeness and its downstream consequences for the political geography of Germany. We argue that the politicisation of wokeness has distinct qualities that set it apart from the politicisation of other contested issues. Whereas positional policy preferences surrounding woke issues likely align with the sociocultural dimension of political conflict, the politicisation of wokeness is new in ways that transcend mere positional–attitudinal disagreement in the political space. Salient policy preferences relating to (anti-)woke issues serve as vehicles to activate and mobilise antagonistic sociopolitical identities. We test hypotheses that link this concept of politicised (anti-)wokeness to the much-debated phenomenon of geographical political polarisation in Germany. Given the increasing mobilisation of (anti-)woke identities, the misfit between individual dispositions towards woke issues and the local opinion climate in the individuals’ residential environment prompts the prevalence and intensity of everyday political conflict. As a result, feelings of social distance to the surrounding residents emerge. We hypothesise that such a mismatch constitutes an important and independent source of affective attachment to one’s place of residence which, in turn, determines patterns of residential mobility. These geographic selection processes, in turn, may reinforce political polarisation along geographical fault lines. We test these arguments using an innovative mix of observational and experimental data, embedded in a large and representative georeferenced survey of the German residential population.

[In cooperation with Stefan Jünger, GESIS.]

Fact sheet

2023 to 2026
in preparation
Data Sources: 
Survey data; survey experiments; small-scale market, structural, and spatial data
Geographic Space: