Multicultural Attitudes in Europe: A Multilevel Analysis of Perceived Compatibility Between Individual and Collective Justice


  • Jessica Gale
  • Christian Staerklé
  • Eva G. T. Green
  • Emilio Paolo Visintin


Contemporary political philosophers debate the degree to which multiculturalism, with its emphasis on collective justice principles, is compatible with Western liberal societies’ core ideologies based on individual justice principles. Taking on a social psychological perspective, the present study offers a cross-national, multilevel examination of the asymmetric compatibility hypothesis, according to which majority and ethnic minority groups differ in the association between support for individualized immigration policies (based on individual justice principles) and support for multiculturalism (based on collective justice principles). Using data from Round 7 of the European Social Survey (N = 36,732), we compared minority and majority attitudes across 1) countries with stronger versus weaker equality policies at the national level (a Migrant Integration Policy Index [MIPEX] sub-dimension indicator), and 2) Western and post-communist European countries. In line with the asymmetric compatibility hypothesis, ethnic minorities perceived significantly less incompatibility between individual and collective justice than majorities. This majority-minority asymmetric compatibility was stronger in Western countries compared to post-communist European countries. Moreover, in Western countries and in countries with stronger equality policies, ethnic minorities generally supported multiculturalism to a greater extent than majorities. Overall, these findings suggest that deep-seated ideological orientations of national contexts shape minority and majority justice conceptions and hence, also, multicultural attitudes. Implications and future research directions are discussed.