The Meaning of Being German: An Inductive Approach to National Identity


  • Ruth K. Ditlmann
  • Johannes Kopf-Beck


Germany is often cited as a paradigmatic case for an ethnic model of nationalism but in recent years introduced many civic elements into its citizenship policies. The goal of the current article is to explore how German citizens construct their national identity against this backdrop. Using an inductive approach, we asked 987 German citizens to describe what being German means for them. A latent class analysis of content-coded responses revealed four classes: a heritage-based identity class with a strong focus on language and culture (39%), an ideology-based identity class that revolves around democracy, welfare, freedom, and economy and safety (19%), a legal-formalistic identity class that is mostly concerned with the legal requirement for obtaining and holding citizenship of national identity (26%), and a trait-based identity class describing personality-traits that are supposed to be typical for Germans (16%). These findings expand upon and add nuance to the commonly used civic vs. ethnic national identity content typology.