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.
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