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Do Pure Liberals Both Endorse Immigration and Reject Muslims? Examining the Inconsistency Hypothesis

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Some people have consistently positive attitudes toward ethnic minority members in every respect. Sniderman and Hagendoorn (2007) characterize these individuals as “pure liberals.” Because of limited empirical evidence on the characteristics of this category of majority members, the consistency thesis, claiming that pure liberals have no negative reactions toward Muslims, remains contentious. Accordingly, we introduce a new idea – the inconsistency hypothesis – claiming that pure liberals’ commitment to greater ethnic diversity may not convert into unprejudiced reactions toward Muslim minority members. To test our inconsistency hypothesis, we fielded a survey in 2018 that also included a so-called list experiment among 716 Danish university students. The list experiment was designed to measure prejudice toward Muslims. Our analyses of the survey’s observational data revealed that pure liberals supported the general idea of greater diversity and remained positive toward ethnic minorities. However, and unlike previous research, the list experiment showed that around 34 percent of pure liberals in the survey were prejudiced toward Muslims. When we combine the observational and experimental evidence, it appears that many pure liberals had inconsistent attitudes: around a third of pure liberals combined support for the general idea of a multiethnic society with prejudice toward Muslims. Our inconsistency hypothesis contributes to literatures on liberal orientations and prejudice toward Muslims: Many liberals are not liberals, and prejudice is surprisingly powerful. The conclusion emphasizes the role of self-interest and distinct values as drivers of prejudice among the strongest advocates of a multiethnic society.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Migration Review
Pages (from-to)731-745
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

    Research areas

  • list experiment, muslims, prejudice, pure liberals, students, “nimbyism”

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