Nationalistic Attitudes and Ethnic Exclusionism in a Comparative Perspective. An Empirical Study of Attitudes Toward the Country and Ethnic Immigrants in 22 Countries

Marcel Theodorus Aloysius Coenders

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The start of the twenty-first century is characterized by massive international migration, intense ethnic conflicts and ethnic antagonism. Attitudes toward the ethnic in-group and toward ethnic out-groups have gained increasing relevance as a research topic in the social sciences. In this cross-national comparative study I examined the attitudes of ethnic majority populations toward their own country and the national in-group (nationalistic attitudes) and their attitudes toward ethnic minorities and immigrants (ethnic exclusionism). Hypotheses derived from various sociological and social psychological theories, such as social identity theory and realistic group conflict theory, were tested with data of the International Social Survey Programme, gathered in 1995 in 22 countries. To assess the degree of cross-national equivalence of the survey measurements, I applied structural equation modelling and conducted multi-sample analyses. First, I explored whether various dimensions of nationalistic attitudes and ethnic exclusionism can be distinguished. Conceptually and empirically, a distinction could be made between chauvinism, referring to feelings of national superiority, and patriotism, referring to national pride. With regard to ethnic exclusionism, a distinction could be made between exclusionism of immigrants, political refugees, and exclusionism from group membership. The interrelations between chauvinism, patriotism, and dimensions of ethnic exclusionism were examined across the different countries. Chauvinism was overall positively related to ethnic exclusionism in each country. Patriotism on the other hand was mostly not significantly, and in a few countries even negatively, related to ethnic exclusionism. Only in Germany and Japan, a higher level of patriotism was related to stronger exclusionism of immigrants and refugees. Next, the impact of individual characteristics on nationalistic attitudes and ethnic exclusionism was assessed. In particular, this study examined whether the effect of educational attainment varied systematically across countries. In line with socialization theory, the educational effect on ethnic exclusionism was smaller in recently established democracies compared to other countries. However, no substantial differences were found in the effect of education on nationalistic attitudes. Chauvinism and ethnic exclusionism were strongly affected by perceptions of ethnic threat. Furthermore, I investigated the societal causes of chauvinism and ethnic exclusionism. To what extent are differences between countries in the average level of chauvinism and ethnic exclusionism related to demographic, economic, and political conditions, as well as recent changes in these societal conditions, such as the decline in economic conditions or the growth in asylum applications? By means of multi-level analyses, the effects of individual and societal characteristics were estimated simultaneously. Two rather consistent effects emerged. Firstly, the higher the degree of ethnic heterogeneity within a country, the stronger the average level of chauvinism and ethnic exclusionism. Secondly, the stronger the relative decline in economic conditions, the stronger the average level of chauvinism, ethnic exclusionism, as well as perceptions of ethnic threat.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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