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Group Dynamics, Religious Diversity, and Political Tolerance in Lebanon
Sociological theories of group dynamics offer nuanced and sometimes conflicting explanations for what influences tolerance (or intolerance) toward outgroups, including Allport’s contact hypothesis, Blalock’s theory of minority-group relations, Blau’s structural theory of heterogeneity, and Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory. Existing research suggests religious identity can have a variable effect on tolerance; communal religious involvement can decrease tolerance, while personal piety may increase tolerance. This paper seeks to test these theories in Lebanon, where religious identity plays an outsized role in politics and many parties have an explicit sectarian identity. Using 2013 data from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, the Arab Barometer, and the World Values Survey, I test the impact of religious identity and electoral district heterogeneity on political tolerance in Lebanon, the most religiously diverse state in the Arab region. Voter registration in Lebanon is mandatory, automatic, and includes confession, which enables me to determine majority or minority religious status within Lebanon’s 25 electoral districts and the country. I develop an index of political tolerance using survey questions from both the Arab Barometer and the World Values Survey and classify respondents as dominant majorities, local minorities, enclaved majorities, or enclaved minorities according to their confession and district. I hypothesize that, 1) in line with Allport’s contact hypothesis, diverse districts will have higher levels of tolerance, 2) enclaved majorities will be the least tolerant of outgroups, and 3) local minorities will be the most tolerant of outgroups. I also consider age during salient political conflicts as a potential mediator. Results will extend sociological theories of group dynamics in an understudied context and provide valuable insights into religion’s impact on tolerance in an area where data on religion is accessible. This research can inform efforts toward conflict resolution in Lebanon and, on a high level, evaluate the impact of religious salience on political tolerance.
Political Science
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