Perspectives on Politics

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

Ronald  Inglehart  a1 , Mansoor  Moaddel  a2 and Mark  Tessler  a3
a1 University of Michigan
a2 Eastern Michigan University
a3 University of Michigan

Article author query
inglehart r   [Google Scholar] 
moaddel m   [Google Scholar] 
tessler m   [Google Scholar] 


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. a


a 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 (