The mobilisation of identities

A study on the relationship between elite rhetoric and public opinion on national identity in developed democracies

Marc Helbling, T. Reeskens, Matthew Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Over the last decade, the topic of national-identity has gained considerable importance after various heads of states have made it an important political issue in the context of ongoing globalisation and European integration processes. There is also a large, mainly historical literature that has emphasised the role of the political elite in the formation of national-identities. While this argument is widely discussed in both public and academic debates, there is, surprisingly, hardly any empirical research on this issue. We do not know whether elite positions resonate with how the masses think about these issues. We therefore set out to test this relationship by combining the 2003 wave of the International Social Survey Programme and content analysis of elite mobilisation rhetoric from the Comparative Manifesto Project. Results indicate that an overlap exists between politicians' articulation of exclusive notions about the contours of national-identity and heightened expressions of civic and ethnic national-identity within public opinion. By contrast, elite mobilisation along more inclusive lines appears ineffective. From this, it appears that exclusionary arguments play a more important role, at least in terms of attitudes about national-identity, than inclusionary ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-767
JournalNations and Nationalism
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

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national identity
democracy
public opinion
mobilization
rhetoric
elite
ISSP
head of state
political elite
European integration
ethnic identity
globalization
politician
empirical research
content analysis
Mobilization
Public Opinion
Rhetoric
Elites
Democracy

Keywords

  • developed democracies
  • national-identities
  • party manifestos
  • political parties

Cite this

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title = "The mobilisation of identities: A study on the relationship between elite rhetoric and public opinion on national identity in developed democracies",
abstract = "Over the last decade, the topic of national-identity has gained considerable importance after various heads of states have made it an important political issue in the context of ongoing globalisation and European integration processes. There is also a large, mainly historical literature that has emphasised the role of the political elite in the formation of national-identities. While this argument is widely discussed in both public and academic debates, there is, surprisingly, hardly any empirical research on this issue. We do not know whether elite positions resonate with how the masses think about these issues. We therefore set out to test this relationship by combining the 2003 wave of the International Social Survey Programme and content analysis of elite mobilisation rhetoric from the Comparative Manifesto Project. Results indicate that an overlap exists between politicians' articulation of exclusive notions about the contours of national-identity and heightened expressions of civic and ethnic national-identity within public opinion. By contrast, elite mobilisation along more inclusive lines appears ineffective. From this, it appears that exclusionary arguments play a more important role, at least in terms of attitudes about national-identity, than inclusionary ones.",
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The mobilisation of identities : A study on the relationship between elite rhetoric and public opinion on national identity in developed democracies. / Helbling, Marc; Reeskens, T.; Wright, Matthew.

In: Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 22, No. 4, 10.2016, p. 744-767.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - Over the last decade, the topic of national-identity has gained considerable importance after various heads of states have made it an important political issue in the context of ongoing globalisation and European integration processes. There is also a large, mainly historical literature that has emphasised the role of the political elite in the formation of national-identities. While this argument is widely discussed in both public and academic debates, there is, surprisingly, hardly any empirical research on this issue. We do not know whether elite positions resonate with how the masses think about these issues. We therefore set out to test this relationship by combining the 2003 wave of the International Social Survey Programme and content analysis of elite mobilisation rhetoric from the Comparative Manifesto Project. Results indicate that an overlap exists between politicians' articulation of exclusive notions about the contours of national-identity and heightened expressions of civic and ethnic national-identity within public opinion. By contrast, elite mobilisation along more inclusive lines appears ineffective. From this, it appears that exclusionary arguments play a more important role, at least in terms of attitudes about national-identity, than inclusionary ones.

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