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The nature of tolerance and its consequences

Research project While tolerance is considered necessary to achieve and maintain democracy, research on tolerance has been in a state of disarray. Theoretical and empirical scholarship has suffered from numerous shortcomings, such as the conflation of tolerance with prejudice and the inability to analyze tolerance in a temporally, spatially, or politically neutral way.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2024-01-01 2026-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Sociology

Research area


External funding

Swedish Research Council

Project description

We recently overcame these shortcomings by advancing a new conceptualization of tolerance that is analytically distinct from prejudice and other related phenomenon. By defining tolerance as a value orientation toward difference and developing a measure that is multidimensional, abstract, and politically neutral, we enhanced our ability to examine tolerance over time. Future research now has the potential to contribute essential knowledge about the implications of tolerance (or lack thereof) for democratic societies.

Against this background, this project examines consequences of tolerance in three key domains: in-group biases (e.g., nationalism), out-group biases (e.g., ethnic prejudice) and democratic values and attitudes (e.g., political trust). We study how tolerance relates to these outcomes longitudinally using three panel datasets that include our measurement of tolerance. The aim is to shed important light on the empirical implications of tolerance, which will increase knowledge about the nature of tolerance and thereby enable a more empirically grounded discussion about the role of tolerance in contemporary democracies.

External funding

Latest update: 2024-05-16