Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-ndqjc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-25T18:57:09.342Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Crafting tolerance: the role of political institutions in a comparative perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2011

Antje Kirchner*
Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the German, Federal Employment Agency (BA), Nuremberg, Germany
Markus Freitag*
Department of Politics and Management, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
Carolin Rapp*
Department of Politics and Management, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany


Ongoing changes in social structures, orientation, and value systems confront us with the growing necessity to address and understand transforming patterns of tolerance as well as specific aspects, such as social tolerance. Based on hierarchical analyses of the latest World Values Survey (2005–08) and national statistics for 28 countries, we assess both individual and contextual aspects that influence an individual's perception of different social groupings. Using a social tolerance index that captures personal attitudes toward these groupings, we present an institutional theory of social tolerance. Our results show that specific institutional qualities, which reduce status anxiety, such as inclusiveness, universality, and fairness, prevail over traditional socio-economic, societal, cultural, and democratic explanations.

Research Article
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alesina, A., Devleeschauwer, A., Easterly, W., Kurlat, S. Wacziarg, R. (2003), ‘Fractionalization’, Journal of Economic Growth 8: 155194.Google Scholar
Allport, G.W. (1958), The Nature of Prejudice, Garden City: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
Andersen, R. Fetner, T. (2008a), ‘Cohort differences in tolerance of homosexuality – attitudinal change in Canada and the United States, 1981-2000’, Public Opinion Quarterly 72(2): 311330.Google Scholar
Andersen, R. Fetner, T. (2008b), ‘Economic inequality and intolerance: attitudes toward homosexuality in 35 democracies’, American Journal of Political Science 52(4): 942958.Google Scholar
Anderson, C.J. Singer, M.M. (2008), ‘The sensitive left and the impervious right. Multilevel models and the politics of inequality, ideology, and legitimacy in Europe’, Comparative Political Studies 41: 564599.Google Scholar
Armingeon, K. (2002), ‘The effects of negotiation democracy’, European Journal of Political Research 40: 81105.Google Scholar
Beck, T., Clarke, G., Groff, A., Keefer, P. Walsh, P. (2001), ‘New tools in comparative political economy: the database of political institutions’, World Bank Economic Review 15(1): 165176.Google Scholar
Bertelsmann Transformation Index (2003), ‘Politische Gestaltung im internationalen Vergleich’. Retrieved 21 January 2009 from http://bti2003.bertelsmann-transformation-index.deGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, P. (1983), ‘Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital’, in R. Kreckel (ed.), Soziale Ungleichheiten, Göttingen: Soziale Welt Sonderband 2, 183198.Google Scholar
Brewer, M.B. Gaertner, S.L. (2004), ‘Toward reduction of prejudice: intergroup contact and social categorization’, in M.B. Brewer and S.L. Gaertner (eds), Self and Social Identity, Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 288318.Google Scholar
Chong, D. (1994), ‘Tolerance and social adjustment to new norms and practices’, Political Behavior 16(1): 2153.Google Scholar
CIA World Factbook (2006), ‘The world factbook’. Retrieved 21 January 2009 from Scholar
Cigler, A. Joslyn, M.R. (2002), ‘The extensiveness of group membership and social capital: the impact on political tolerance attitudes’, Political Research Quarterly 55(1): 725.Google Scholar
Clayton, R. Pontusson, J. (1998), ‘Welfare-state retrenchment revisited: entitlement cuts, public sector restructuring, and inegalitarian trends in advanced capitalist societies’, World Politics 51(1): 6798.Google Scholar
Cohen, J., Marcoux, I., Bilsen, J., Deboosere, P., van der Wal, G. Deliens, L. (2006), ‘European public acceptance of euthanasia: socio-demographic and cultural factors associated with the acceptance of euthanasia in 33 European countries’, Social Science & Medicine 63(3): 743756.Google Scholar
Crepaz, M.M.L. Damron, R. (2009), ‘Constructing tolerance: how the welfare state shapes attitudes about immigrants’, Comparative Political Studies 42(3): 437463.Google Scholar
Dunn, K., Orellana, S. Singh, S. (2009), ‘Legislative diversity and social tolerance: how multiparty systems lead to tolerant citizens’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 19(3): 283312.Google Scholar
Esping-Andersen, G. (1990), The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Feldmann, E., Henschel, T.R. Ulrich, S. (2000), ‘Tolerance’, in Bertelsmann Group for Policy Research (ed.), Basis for Democratic Interaction, Gütersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 133.Google Scholar
Finke, R. Adamczyk, A. (2008), ‘Cross national moral beliefs: the influence of national religious context’, The Sociological Quarterly 49(4): 617652.Google Scholar
Forst, R. (2007), ‘Toleration’, in E.N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 11, Stanford: Stanford University, pp. 312325.Google Scholar
Freitag, M. Bühlmann, M. (2009), ‘Crafting trust: the role of political institutions in a comparative perspective’, Comparative Political Studies 42(12): 15371566.Google Scholar
Freitag, M. Stadelmann-Steffen, I. (2010), ‘Stumbling block or stepping stone? The influence of direct democracy on individual participation in parliamentary elections’, Electoral Studies 29: 472483.Google Scholar
Freitag, M. Traunmüller, R. (2009), ‘Spheres of trust. An empirical analysis of the foundations of particularized and generalized trust in Germany’, European Journal of Political Research 48: 782803.Google Scholar
Fritzsche, P.K. (1995), ‘Toleranz im Umbruch. Über die Schwierigkeit, tolerant zu sein’, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte B43: 817.Google Scholar
Gallagher, M. (1991), ‘Proportionality, disproportionality and electoral systems’, Electoral Studies 10(1): 3351.Google Scholar
Gallagher, M. (2009), ‘Election indices’ Retrieved 9 November 2009 from Scholar
Gallagher, M. Mitchell, P. (eds) (2008), The Politics of Electoral Systems, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Gerhards, J. (2007), ‘EU Policy on Equality between Homo- and Heterosexuals and Citizens’ Attitudes toward Homosexuality in 26 EU Member States and Turkey’. BSSE – Arbeitspapier 8. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin.Google Scholar
Gibson, J.L. (1987), ‘Homosexuals and the Ku Klux Klan: a contextual analysis of political tolerance’, Political Research Quarterly 40: 427448.Google Scholar
Gibson, J.L. (1992), ‘Alternative measures of political tolerance – must tolerance be “least-liked”?’, American Journal of Political Science 36: 560577.Google Scholar
Gibson, J.L. Gouws, A. (2000), ‘Social identities and political intolerance: linkages within the South African mass public’, American Journal of Political Science 44(2): 278292.Google Scholar
Gutmann, A. Thompson, D. (1996), Democracy and Disagreement, Cambridge, London: Belknap Press of Harvard University.Google Scholar
Hall, P.A. Taylor, R.C.R. (1996), ‘Political science and the three new institutionalisms’, Political Studies 44: 936957.Google Scholar
Herreros, F. Criado, H. (2008), ‘The state and the development of social trust’, International Political Science Review 29: 5371.Google Scholar
Hodson, R., Sekulić, D. Massey, G. (1994), ‘National tolerance in the former Yugoslavia’, The American Journal of Sociology 99(6): 15341558.Google Scholar
Hox, J.J. (2002), Multilevel Analysis: Techniques and Applications, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Huckfeldt, R. Sprague, J. (1987), ‘Networks in context: the social flow of political information’, American Political Science Review 81(4): 11971216.Google Scholar
Ikeda, K. Richey, S. (2009), ‘The impact of diversity in informal social networks on tolerance in Japan’, British Journal of Political Science 39(3): 655668.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. (1997), Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. (2000), ‘Culture and democracy’, in L.E. Harrison and S.P. Huntington (eds), Culture Matters. How Values Shape Human Progress, New York: Basic Books, 8097.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. Baker, W.E. (2000), ‘Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values’, American Sociological Review 65(1): 1951.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. Norris, P. (2003), ‘The true clash of civilizations’, Foreign Policy 135: 6270.Google Scholar
Inglehart, R. Welzel, C. (2005), Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Lijphart, A. (1999), Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Little, R.J.A. Rubin, J. (2002), Statistical Analysis with Missing Data, Vol. 2, Hoboken: Wiley-Interscience.Google Scholar
Loftus, J. (2001), ‘America's liberalization in attitudes toward homosexuality, 1973 to 1998’, American Sociological Review 66(5): 762782.Google Scholar
Marquart-Pyatt, S. Paxton, P. (2007), ‘In principle and in practice: learning political tolerance in Eastern and Western Europe’, Political Behavior 29(1): 89113.Google Scholar
Marshall, M.G. Jaggers, K. (2009), Polity IV Project. Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2007, Severn, MD, USA: Center for Systemic Peace.Google Scholar
Maule, L.S. Goidel, R.K. (2003), ‘Adultery, drugs, and sex: an experimental investigation of individual reactions to unethical behavior by public officials’, The Social Science Journal 40(1): 6578.Google Scholar
McLaren, L.M. (2003), ‘Anti-immigrant prejudice in Europe: contact, threat perception, and preferences for the exclusion of migrants’, Social Forces 81(3): 909936.Google Scholar
Mendus, S. (1999), ‘My brother's keeper: the politics of intolerance’, in S. Mendus (ed.), The Politics of Toleration, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 113.Google Scholar
Minkenberg, M. (2002), ‘Religion and public policy. Institutional, cultural, and political impact on the shaping of abortion policies in Western democracies’, Comparative Political Studies 35(2): 221247.Google Scholar
Mondak, J.J. Sanders, M.S. (2003), ‘Tolerance and intolerance, 1976-1998’, American Journal of Political Science 47(3): 492502.Google Scholar
Mondak, J.J. Sanders, M.S. (2005), ‘The complexity of tolerance and intolerance judgments: a response to Gibson’, Political Behavior 27(4): 325337.Google Scholar
Murphy, A.R. (1997), ‘Tolerance, toleration, and the liberal tradition’, Polity 29(4): 593623.Google Scholar
Mutz, D.C. (2001), ‘Tolerance’, in N.J. Smelser and P.B. Baltes (eds), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 23, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1576615771.Google Scholar
Norris, P. (2002), Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Norris, P. (2009), ‘Democracy crossnational data, release spring 2009’. Retrieved 19 May 2009 from Scholar
North, D.C. (1990), Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Orlenius, K. (2008), ‘Tolerance of intolerance: values and virtues at stake in education’, Journal of Moral Education 37(4): 467484.Google Scholar
Peffley, M. Rohrschneider, R. (2003), ‘Democratization and political tolerance in seventeen countries: a multi-level model of democratic learning’, Political Research Quarterly 56(3): 243257.Google Scholar
Persell, C.H., Green, A. Gurevich, L. (2001), ‘Civil society, economic distress, and social tolerance’, Sociological Forum 16(2): 203230.Google Scholar
Pickel, G. (2001), ‘Moralische Vorstellungen und ihre religiöse Fundierung im europäischen Vergleich’, in G. Pickel and M. Krüggeler (eds), Religion und Moral. Entkoppelt oder Verknüpft?, Opladen: Leske+Budrich, 105134.Google Scholar
Rothstein, B. (1996), ‘Political institutions. An overview’, in R.E. Goodin, H.-D. Klingemann (eds), A New Handbook of Political Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 133166.Google Scholar
Rothstein, B. Stolle, D. (2008), ‘The state and social capital: an institutional theory of generalized trust’, Comparative Politics 40(4): 441467.Google Scholar
Rothstein, B. Uslaner, E.M. (2005), ‘All for all. Equality, corruption and social trust’, World Politics 58: 4172.Google Scholar
Rothwell, V. Hawdon, J.E. (2008), ‘Science, individualism, and attitudes toward deviance: the influence of modernization and rationalization’, Deviant Behavior 29(3): 253274.Google Scholar
Steenbergen, M.R. Jones, B.S. (2002), ‘Modeling multilevel data structures’, American Journal of Political Science 46: 218237.Google Scholar
Stouffer, S.A. (1955), Communism, Conformity and Civil Liberties, New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
Sullivan, J.L. Transue, J.E. (1999), ‘The psychological underpinnings of democracy: a selective review of research on political tolerance, interpersonal trust, and social capital’, Annual Review of Psychology 50: 625650.Google Scholar
Sullivan, J.L., Piereson, J. Marcus, G.E. (1993), Political Tolerance and American Democracy, Chicago: The University Of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Sullivan, J.L., Piereson, J. Marcus, G.E. (1979), ‘An alternative conceptualization of political tolerance: illusory increases 1950s-1970s’, The American Political Science Review 73(3): 781794.Google Scholar
Tatalovich, R. Smith, T.A. (2001), ‘Status claims and cultural conflicts: the genesis of morality policy’, Policy Currents 10(4): 28.Google Scholar
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2008), Annual. Retrieved 17 December 2008 from http://www.transparency.orgGoogle Scholar
Vatter, A. (2002), Kantonale Demokratien im Vergleich. Entstehungsgründe, Interaktionen und Wirkungen politischer Institutionen in den Schweizer Kantonen, Opladen: Leske+Budrich.Google Scholar
Wagner, J. (1986), ‘Political tolerance and stages of moral development: a conceptual and empirical alternative’, Political Behavior 8(1): 4580.Google Scholar
Weldon, S.A. (2006), ‘The institutional context of tolerance for ethnic minorities: a comparative, multilevel analysis of western Europe’, American Journal of Political Science 50(2): 331349.Google Scholar
Wernet, C.A., Elman, C. Pendleton, B.F. (2005), ‘The postmodern individual: structural determinants of attitudes’, Comparative Sociology 4(3–4): 339363.Google Scholar
Windzio, M. (2008), Die Mehrebenenanalyse als Regressionsmodell für hierarchische Daten. Retrieved 24 June 2008 from Scholar
World Values Survey (2005), ‘Official Data File v20090621a and v20090621b. 2009. World Values Survey Association’. Retrieved 06 February 2009 from http://www.worldvaluessurvey.orgASEP/JDS, Madrid.Google Scholar