Political Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 89–113 | Cite as

In Principle and in Practice: Learning Political Tolerance in Eastern and Western Europe

Original Paper


Political tolerance is a key democratic value believed to undergird successful and healthy democracies. In nascent democracies especially, citizens must tolerate the views and participation of opposing groups in order to ensure methodical transfers of power with successive elections. Yet, despite its importance, little research considers tolerance outside established democracies. In this paper, we compare political tolerance across eight Eastern European countries and six Western countries. We demonstrate that mean levels of tolerance are lower in the newly democratized countries of Eastern Europe and then examine whether they are a function of East Europeans’ limited experience with democracy. We also test whether established individual-level theories of tolerance replicate across this wide range of new and old democracies. We find some support for theories of democratic learning and also show that models of tolerance operate differently across the range of countries in our sample.


Political tolerance Cross-national Democracy 



We thank Bob Kaufman, Lisa Morrison, and Kazimierz Slomczynski for comments on an earlier version of this paper. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Mershon Center at The Ohio State University. This paper was presented at the 2002 American Sociological Association meetings in Chicago, Illinois.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Social Work and AnthropologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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