Political rhetoric and attitudes toward nationhood: a time-comparative and cross-national analysis of 39 countries

Markus Hadler*, Anaїd Flesken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Research on the relationship between nationhood and individual attitudes prominently focuses on whether – and how – the distinction between ethnic and civic conceptions may be drawn in mass public opinion. We depart from this literature to explain the effects of party rhetoric on shaping more restrictive conceptions of nationhood, which previous research refers to as “ethnic,” “objective,” or “ascriptive” views on nationhood. We do so in three parts: we examine whether political rhetoric, in terms of party manifestos, and individual-level conceptions of nationhood are linked; whether the relationship depends on the ideological alignment between political parties and respondents; and whether political rhetoric and individual predisposition act in combination. We analyze three waves of survey data from the International Social Survey Program’s National Identity module from 1995, 2003 and 2013, covering 58,498 respondents from 39 countries. We find that political rhetoric influences respondents’ conceptions of nationhood. This effect, however, is not as straightforward as initially expected. While the overall political climate does not have a direct effect at the societal level, it does affect the way in which a specific party’s political messages influence the attitudes of their individual recipients. Once the political climate is more ethnocentric, conceptions of nationhood tend to be more restrictive across the board, even among respondents aligned with parties that do not emphasize ethnic conceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-382
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Sociology
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ISSP
  • manifesto data
  • national identity
  • political parties
  • survey research


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