Rethinking the mainstream: Situational conformity, party affiliation and support for Muslim newcomers in Norway

Tue, 26 Feb 2019 13:00:00 GMT

Mathew J Creighton, UCD and Zan Strabac, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Location: UCD Geary Seminar Room

Rethinking the mainstream:  Situational conformity, party affiliation and support for Muslim newcomers in Norway

Mathew J Creighton*
University College Dublin
UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy

Zan Strabac
Norwegian University of Science and

Strong opposition to Muslim immigration, including refugee, resides at the border between marginal and mainstream political discourse. This work considers how anti-immigrant sentiment is selectively revealed, offering a new perspective on the role stigma plays in defining the political mainstream. By way of a survey experiment in Norway, we measure the gap between what people express and the beliefs they hold anonymously, assessing how supporters of distinct political parties situationally conform to expectations about the expression of intolerance. Using three frames, we contrast attitudes toward immigrants, refugees and more general types of new entrants to Norway. We conclude that the intolerance is more widespread than openly expressed sentiment would suggest due to the systematic masking of targeted opposition to Muslim newcomers. We find that supporters of parties outside the mainstream, such as the Progress Party (FrP), reject social norms limiting the overt expression of opposition to Muslim newcomers. Covert expression, under conditions of absolute and permanent anonymity, demonstrate hardened sentiment among the mainstream right. In other words, what defines the political mainstream is not simply less overt hostility toward immigration - Muslim or otherwise - but a greater willingness to anticipate and conform to situational norms about the expression of targeted intolerance.