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Xenophobia and In-Group Solidarity in Iraq: A Natural Experiment on the Impact of Insecurity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2006

Ronald Inglehart
University of
Mansoor Moaddel
Eastern Michigan
Mark Tessler
University of


A large body of research by political scientists, psychologists and historians suggests that “existential security”—the feeling that survival can be taken for granted—is conducive to tolerance of foreigners, openness to social change and a pro-democratic political culture. Conversely, existential insecurity leads to 1) xenophobia and 2) strong in-group solidarity. This article tests these hypotheses against evidence from a recent survey of Iraq—a society where one would expect to find exceptionally high levels of insecurity. We find that the Iraqi public today shows the highest level of xenophobia found in any of the 85 societies for which data are available—together with extremely high levels of solidarity with one's own ethnic group.Ronald Inglehart is Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan (, Mansoor Moaddel is Professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University (, and Mark Tessler is Professor of Political Science at University of Michigan (

Research Article
© 2006 American Political Science Association

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