European Political Science Review

Research Article

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

Antje Kirchnera1 c1, Markus Freitaga2 c1 and Carolin Rappa2 c1

a1 Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the German, Federal Employment Agency (BA), Nuremberg, Germany

a2 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.

(Online publication April 01 2011)


  • social tolerance;
  • institutions;
  • comparative politics;
  • hierarchical analyses;
  • World Values Survey