Volume 44, No. 4 | Political attitudes

Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard, Robert Klemmensen, Peter Thisted Dinesen and Axel Skytthe | Only in the dark are all cats grey: the significance of genetics and individual differences for political behavior

Models of political behavior are based on the idea that individual dispositions are fundamentally the same. Behavioral genetics questions this one size fits all assumption. Political behavior is a product of both nature and nurture. The article argues that students of political behavior have to take genetically informed deep-seated individual differences seriously and presents a recent Danish twin study of political behavior. The analysis shows that individual variation in ideological orientation, political participation, political interest and external efficacy is partially accounted for by genetic disposition. Moreover, the well-established relationship between sense of efficacy and political participation is primarily accounted for by a shared, latent genetic disposition. The article concludes that traditional theories of political behavior have to be revised to incorporate the fact that one model of man does not fit all.

Christian Albrekt Larsen | Prejudice toward ethnic minorities. A comparison of Denmark, Sweden, UK and the USA

The article compares how the majority population in Denmark, Sweden, UK and the US perceive ethnic minorities. In the US, a long research tradition has shown how white Americans hold prejudice attitudes toward “blacks”. This article describes whether Britons, Swedes and Danes have developed the same kind of prejudices toward “non-western immigrants”. The article is based on a unique data source where items from the American GSS survey are replicated in three European countries. The analysis shows that the Americans’ prejudices toward “blacks” are not worse than the Europeans’ prejudices toward “non-western immigrants”. This leads to the conclusion that neither attempts to de-politize the ethnicity issue nor the presence of an encompassing welfare regime have been able to prevent the establishment of prejudices and stereotypes toward out-group members.

Anders Engrob Birkmose og Jens Peter Frølund Thomsen | Does contact with immigrants increase tolerance?

The paper examines the intergroup contact hypothesis in a multilevel analysis of 21 countries. Ethnic tolerance is treated as the dependent variable and workplace contact is treated as the independent variable. This paper confirms the findings of many single country studies that intergroup contact increases tolerance toward European immigrants. This paper also tests whether intergroup friendship and perceived symbolic threat mediate the effect of workplace contact on out-group tolerance. Statistical analyses confirm that friendship and perceived symbolic threat almost fully account for the effect of workplace contact. In the final section, the paper discusses some of the major critiques of intergroup contact research.

Lene Aarøe | Citizen emotions and Islam in the public: islamophobia or context-induced negativity?

The role of religion, and especially Islam in the public space has become a new conflict issue in public debate. Yet our knowledge of citizens’ attitude formation with respect to the question of Islam and Christianity in the public space in Denmark remains limited. Prior Danish research has mainly focused on the general aversion to Islam. The article extends and nuances this perspective. With data from two survey experiments collected in Denmark it is demonstrated that affective negativity against Islam is contextual so that the difference in citizens’ anxiety and contempt of Muslim as compared to Christian symbols in the dress code in the public space depend on whether the target group members are private citizens or public representatives.

Rune Slothuus, Michael Bang Petersen and Jakob Rathlev | Political parties as opinion leaders: results from a panel survey

The impact of political parties on public opinion has been debated among scholars for more than half a century. Yet, few studies have examined the influence of cues from political parties on citizens’ policy preferences during an actual policy debate. Drawing on data from a six-wave panel survey, we examine how two major shifts in policy positions among the major center-right parties in Denmark affected public preferences during 2010-11. We find strong effects of party cues on mass policy preferences and polarization along partisan lines. The magnitude of opinion shifts in our real world context rivals party cue effects found in experimental settings, suggesting a strong role of political parties as opinion leaders.

Yosef Bhatti, Kasper M. Hansen og Asmus Leth Olsen | Tax policy change and political support for the mayoral party

Do voters at Danish municipal elections punish and reward the incumbent party for changing the tax rate? We examine the relationship between changes in the tax rate and the support for the incumbent party in the period 1985-2001 and find a strong relationship between income taxes and electoral support. Property tax does not seem to matter, however. The effect of changes in income taxes seems to be most pronounced close to elections while changes occurring during the first years of an electoral term only seem to have marginal influence. Finally, no relationship is found between changes in taxes in neighboring municipalities and support to the incumbent, though incumbent parties in municipalities with a low absolute tax rate compared to the surrounding municipalities seem to perform relatively well at elections.

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