From identification to political engagement: the role of dual

Dual identity under threat
Running head: Dual identity under threat
Dual identity under threat: When and how do Turkish and Moroccan minorities
engage in politics?
Fenella Fleischmann1, Karen Phalet2 & Marc Swyngedouw2
ERCOMER, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
University of Leuven, Belgium
Published in Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, Special Issue
Migration and Integration, edited by G. Horenczyk, I. Jasinskaja-Lahti & D.L. Sam.
Volume 221 / Number 4 / 2013 pp. 214-222
Dual identity under threat
Dual identity under threat: When and how do Turkish and Moroccan minorities
engage in politics?
Drawing on the literatures on dual identity and politicisation, this study relates the
political engagement of European-born Muslim to their dual identification as ethnoreligious minorities and as citizens. Minorities’ political engagement may target
mainstream society and/or ethno-religious communities. Surveying the Turkish and
Moroccan Belgian second generation, our study analyses their support for religious
political assertion participation in ethno-religious and mainstream organisations, and trust
in civic institutions. Its explanatory focus is on the dual ethno-religious and civic
identifications of the second generation and on perceived discrimination and perceived
incompatibility as threats to their dual identity. Our findings show that participation in
organisations beyond the ethno-religious community is most likely among high civic and
low ethnic identifiers, and lower among dual identifiers. Rather than increasing political
apathy, perceived discrimination goes along with higher levels of participation in both
ethno-religious and mainstream organisations. Finally, the perception of Islamic and
Western ways of life as incompatible predicts greater support for religious political
assertion and lower trust in civic institutions. Implications for the role of dual identity and
identity threat in the political integration of ethno-religious minorities are discussed.
Dual identity under threat
Due to large-scale immigration in the second half of the 20th century, European
societies host growing numbers of citizens who identify with more than one cultural
group. Many ethnic minority members develop and maintain dual identities: they are
committed to a super-ordinate national or civic identity, which they share with majority
members; at the same time, they often maintain a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic
and/or religious subgroup (Dovidio, Validzic & Gaertner, 1998; González & Brown,
2006). In their influential paper on politicized collective identities, Simon and
Klandermans (2001) argue that dual identification with both the minority group and the
wider polity is required for minority members to become politically engaged. Minorities’
political engagement is critical for their societal integration. In many European societies,
ethnic and religious tensions focus particularly on the allegedly problematic integration
of Muslim minorities (Sniderman & Hagendoorn, 2007). Widespread majority views of
Muslims as second-class citizens pose a threat to the dual identity of the second
generation as Muslim minorities and citizens. Against this background, the present study
investigates the hitherto under-researched political consequences of threat to the secondgeneration’s dual identity. Extending the existing literature on dual identity and
politicisation, this research has a twofold aim. First, we aim to examine the role of
perceived discrimination and perceived incompatibility as threats to dual identity in
minorities’ political engagement. Going beyond levels of identification as precursors of
political engagement, our measures of perceived threat address the conditions under
which dual identities can be developed and maintained. Second, we aim to differentiate
between conventional and contentious forms, and between mainstream and ethnic or
Dual identity under threat
religious forms of political engagement. Thus, we move away from overall levels of
politicisation towards different forms of minorities’ engagement in the political domain.
Since dual identifications and identity threat may differentially predict distinct forms of
engagement, the broad range of indicators of political engagement in our study provides
more nuanced insights into the process of politicisation.
In democratic societies, the political engagement of citizens from all segments of
society is required for the legitimacy of the political system. Including minorities into this
process thus constitutes an important aspect of their societal integration. Moreover,
minorities’ political engagements in democratic societies can take different forms,
including ethnic and contentious politics. Therefore, the broad range of political
outcomes considered in the present study will enhance our understanding of an important,
yet under-researched, dimension of the integration of ethnic and religious minorities into
European societies.
Dual identification and political engagement
Simon and Klandermans (2001) argue that dual identity is a prerequisite for the
politicisation of collective identities. They suggest that only if minorities identify at once
with their minority group, which may be defined in ethnic or religious terms, and with
the wider society, will they make claims and take action to reduce intergroup inequality.
Several empirical studies suggest that dual identification indeed fuels politicisation, over
and above other common explanations like grievances (Klandermans, Van der Toorn &
Van Stekelenburg, 2008; Simon & Ruhs, 2008; Simon & Grabow, 2010).
Dual identity under threat
While providing some evidence for the importance of dual identity in the
politicisation process, these studies have a shortcoming, which is addressed by the
present research. Namely, they focus on grievance-based politicisation and they explain
when individual members of low-status groups are willing to take collective action to
improve their group’s position (cf. Wright, 2001). While this motivation and the ensuing
political action certainly are important from an intergroup perspective, they cover only a
small part of the range of political behaviours individuals may engage in. Due to its
inherent goal of changing intergroup relations to the advantage of low-status groups,
collective action is likely to meet with considerable resistance from high-status groups. In
contrast with such contentious politics, political engagement can also take on more
conventional forms, as indicated for instance by citizens’ trust in political institutions.
Following a classic distinction between conventional and contentious forms of political
engagement in political science (e.g. Tilly & Tarrow, 2006), we study a range of political
engagements ranging from most conventional forms (trust in civic institutions), through
more activist and therefore potentially more contentious forms (participation in
mainstream and ethno-religious organisations), to most contentious forms (assertion of
Muslims’ religious rights in the political sphere). Despite these differences, all of the
studied outcomes are acceptable or normative types of political action in democratic
societies (cf. Kawakami & Dion, 1995) which have been used in the Belgian political
context by other groups in the past. In addition to conventional and contentious forms of
political engagement, we also distinguish between minorities’ engagement within the
ethno-religious community and engagements that target a wider audience across ethnoreligious group boundaries.
Dual identity under threat
Dual identity threat: Perceived discrimination and incompatibility
Dual identity, or the integration of ethnic and mainstream belonging, has been related to
the psychological and social adaptation of immigrant minorities, and was found to
facilitate their well-being and to foster harmonious intergroup relations (Berry, Phinney,
Sam & Vedder, 2006; Dovidio, Validzic & Gaertner, 1998; Hutnik, 1991; González &
Brown, 2006; Hornsey & Hogg, 2000). More recently, however, researchers have asked
under what conditions dual identities can be developed and maintained (Fleischmann &
Phalet, in preparation; Mahönen, Jasinskaja-Lahti & Liebkind, 2011; Verkuyten &Yildiz,
2007); and they have highlighted possible downsides to dual identity under threat (Baysu,
Phalet & Brown, 2012). The latter studies have identified perceived discrimination as a
source of identity threat, because the experience of discrimination most clearly signals
that one’s minority identity is devalued by the majority (Branscombe & Ellemers, 1998).
As a source of identity threat for dual identifiers, perceived discrimination may have
direct implications for their political engagement, which our study will examine further.
There is some evidence relating perceived discrimination to political engagement, but the
nature of the association depends on the specific political outcome under study. In a
previous study among Turkish and Moroccan minorities in four European countries,
perceived discrimination was reliably related to increased collective action like
demonstrations or petitions, but decreased support for the political assertion of religion
(Fleischmann, Phalet & Klein, 2011). Since perceptions of discrimination and unfair
treatment by definition imply adversarial attributions as well as illegitimacy appraisals,
Dual identity under threat
they are most likely to initiate an emotion-based pathway to collective action (Van
Zomeren, Spears, Fischer & Leach, 2004). Thus, they may fuel contentious forms of
political engagement with a view to redressing intergroup inequality.
In contrast, other forms of identity threat, for instance, negative stereotyping, less clearly
imply adversarial attributions to a high-status outgroup; and might be differentially
associated with political engagement. Concretely, we assessed incompatibility beliefs,
opposing Islamic to West-European identities and loyalties, as a distinct source and a
most direct measure of dual identity threat. Specifically, we asked to what extent Islamic
and European lifestyles were seen as inherently conflicting by minorities – in line with
prevailing majority perceptions of incompatibility (Van Acker & Vanbeselaere, 2011).
Since the perception of incompatibility does not imply adversarial attributions, nor does it
represent the situation as illegitimate, this form of dual identity threat is less likely to
induce emotion-based political action. Rather, we expect that perceived incompatibility
may predict minorities’ disengagement from mainstream politics. At the same time,
perceived incompatibility may underlie some contentious or oppositional forms of
political engagement within the ethno-religious community. More specifically, we predict
that perceived incompatibility will be most positively related to religious political
assertion, and negatively to mainstream forms of political engagement. Perceived
discrimination, on the other hand, is expected to go along with organisational
participation as a contentious, yet effective means of redressing the grievances of ethnoreligious minorities.
Dual identity under threat
The present research
Based on the considerations above, we will analyze four indicators of political
engagement: support for religious political assertion, participation in ethno-religious and
mainstream organisations and trust in civic institutions.1 In contrast to previous research
on politicisation, which averaged over a range of political attitudes and behaviours
(Simon & Ruhs, 2008; Simon & Grabow, 2010), we distinguish between these four
indicators. This should provide a more fine-tuned understanding of how minorities’ dual
identification affects political engagement, and of the forms of political engagement for
which it is most relevant.
As one explanation for different forms of political engagement, we examine the
role of dual identity. Dual identity is operationalised as the interaction between
minorities’ identification with the ethnic and religious subgroups (i.e., ethno-religious
identification) and their identification with the city and country of residence (i.e., civic
identification). In line with a well-established bidimensional approach of identification
and acculturation (Hutnik, 1991), we used separate measures of ethno-religious and civic
identities, and added a statistical interaction (after centring) which indicates whether the
combination of these identities affects political engagement over and above their additive
effects. We consider participants who score high (i.e., above the midpoint of the scale) on
both ethno-religious and civic identification as dual identifiers; and we expect dual
identifiers to be most politically engaged (H1; cf. Simon & Klandermans, 2001).
In addition to dual identification, we expect that perceptions of dual identity threat
will also predict political engagement. Also in line with Simon and Klandermans (2001),
Another measure of political engagement commonly used and readily available in most survey data is
voting in elections. Because voting is mandatory in Belgium and only very few participants of our survey
did not vote (thus risking a fine, unless they were granted an exemption), we do not study this outcome here.
Dual identity under threat
we hypothesize that minorities who perceive their identities to be compatible will be most
politically engaged (H2a). Additionally, we expect them to support the goals and
participate in the political activities of both their ethno-religious community, and the
wider society(H2b). On the other hand, those members of the second generation who
perceive their ethno-religious and civic identities to be incompatible and who feel
discriminated against should be more likely to disengage from conventional politics.
While perceived discrimination will predict higher levels of contentious political
engagement within and across ethno-religious group boundaries, perceived
incompatibility will rather predict political disengagement and/or restrict political
engagement to the ethno-religious community (H3). In summary, we do not expect the
four forms of political engagement under study to be interchangeable. Instead, we expect
different patterns of engagement as a function of the levels of identification with ethnoreligious and civic identities, their perceived (in)compatibility and perceived
Data & method
Our empirical analyses are based on survey data, collected in 2007 and 2008 among
random samples of 18 to 35 year old local-born children of immigrants from Turkey and
Morocco in the major Belgian cities Antwerp and Brussels (see Swyngedouw et al., 2008
for a full technical report). Being born and raised in the cities under study, the second
generation is most likely to claim dual identities as citizens and members of ethnic and
religious minority groups. Turkish and Moroccan immigrants arrived in Belgium from
the 1960s onwards mainly as guest workers and due to this disadvantaged social
Dual identity under threat
background their children encounter severe obstacles in education and on the labour
market (Phalet, Deboosere & Bastiaenssen, 2007). The survey, which was conducted
through face-to-face interviews, contained questions on integration in all domains of life,
including measures of identification and political engagement. We make use of pooled
data from the two minority groups (N=1,159).2 We run separate regressions for the four
dependent variables (OLS for continuous dependent variables, logistic for dichotomous
variables).3 In addition to identification, perceived incompatibility and perceived
discrimination as predictors of political engagement, we include the other three
dependent variables and important controls. Since we work with cross-sectional data and
hence cannot establish the causal ordering of variables, we explicitly aim to reveal
patterns of associations between dual identity and different forms of political engagement.
Four indicators of political engagement are analyzed. (1) Religious political assertion is
assessed with five statements with which participants could agree or disagree on 5-point
scales.4 The items form a reliable scale (Cronbach’s α = .71) and extend a scale of
Muslim politicisation that has been validated in previous cross-national research
We also tested potential differences between ethnic groups by replicating the analyses for each group
separately. For the sake of brevity, we present only results of the pooled analyses including group dummies
here. Separate analyses by ethnic group are available from the first author upon request.
Due to the combination of continuous and dichotomous dependent variables, the limited number of
indicators for composite scales and the sample size, which is small when related to the complexity of the
analytical models, structural equation modelling was considered not feasible.
The statements were as follows: “Belgian Muslims should have the right to appear in front of Muslim
tribunals in Belgium”, “Muslims from European countries should be represented by their own Muslim
political organizations”, “Islam should be represented in politics and societies, just like other religions and
philosophies of life”, “Islam should be the only and ultimate authority in political matters” and “Muslim
women should cover their hair outside the home”. The last three statements have been used in a scale that
could be replicated across ethnic groups and cities in four European countries (Author 2011). The first two
statements are only available in Belgium, but were included due to their high correlations to enhance the
reliability of the scale and the robustness of the measure of religious political assertion.
Dual identity under threat
(Fleischmann, Phalet & Klein, 2011). We averaged the five items and recoded them such
that higher levels indicate more support for Muslim political assertion. Like all other
continuous variables, it was centred on the midpoint of the scale to facilitate the
estimation and interpretation of regression models with interactions. (2) Participation in
ethno-religious organizations is measured by a dummy variable, indicating whether
respondents participated in any (religious or other) organization targeting mainly coethnics during the last twelve months (1=yes, 0=no). (3) Similarly, participation in
mainstream organizations indicates whether respondents participated in any organization
that was not targeting co-ethnics. (4) Trust in civic institutions is a reliable composite
scale (Cronbach’s α = .84) averaging over six items. The items assess trust in the Belgian
government, parliament, the king, the municipal administration, the police and trade
unions. Participants indicated their trust on 5-point scales, with higher values indicating
more trust.
The main explanatory variables are identification, perceived discrimination and
perceived incompatibility of Western and Islamic ways of life. We take four types of
identification into account: national, city, ethnic and religious. They were measured with
the question: “How strongly do you feel you belong to the following groups? To what
extent do you feel….?” (i) Belgian, (ii) Antwerpenaar/Bruxellois, (iii) Turkish/Moroccan,
(iv) Muslim. Respondents could indicate their degree of identification on a 5-point scale
ranging (after recoding) from 1 (very weakly) to 5 (very strongly), with respondents
coded as 0 if they indicated that the category of identification did not apply to them.
Because national and city identification are positively correlated, as are ethnic and
religious identification, scores for civic and ethno-religious identification were computed
Dual identity under threat
as the mean of the respective two identities.5 These two types of identity and their
interaction are added as predictors, with the interaction indicating whether they affect
political engagement additively, or whether political engagement differs depending on
specific combinations of ethno-religious and civic identification.
Perceived incompatibility of Islamic and Western life-styles was assessed with
three items: “The Muslim lifestyle is incompatible with the lifestyle in Western Europe”,
“The values and culture of Western Europe are a threat to Islam” and “If worse comes to
worst, the countries of Western Europe will turn against Islam”. Participants indicated
their agreement with these statements on 5-point scales. The reliability of the scale is
rather low (Cronbach’s α = .53).6
Two items measure the frequency of perceived discrimination, asking how often
participants were personally treated unfairly or experienced hostility due to their
background on 5-point scales (1=never, 5=regularly). Because the two items are highly
correlated (r = .57), the average is computed to assess perceived discrimination.
As control variables, we include the ethnic background of the participants,
contrasting Turks (1) with Moroccans (0), participants’ gender (1= female) and their level
In additional analyses, we replicated the regressions with separate indicators for the four types of
identification. The results were largely similar, but due to the moderate to high correlations between
national and city identification (r = .35) as well as ethnic and religious identification (r = .50), mostly only
one of these became significant and the types of identity that are averaged in the presented analyses had
effects in the same direction. Concretely, religious political assertion was significantly positively predicted
by religious identification and negatively by city identification, with non-significant (at p < .05) positive
effects of ethnic and negative effects of national identification. Participation in co-ethnic organisations was
significantly positively predicted by religious identification, with a just significant negative effect of
national identification (p = 0.046), and with non-significant effects of ethnic (positive) and city
identification (negative). Participation in mainstream organisations and political trust were not significantly
predicted by ethnic religious identification, yet positively associated with national (and more weakly city)
Because of this limited reliability, we repeated the analyses with the three items entered separately and
found the results to be the same.
Dual identity under threat
of education (tertiary degree completed or currently pursued =1).7 Table 1 presents
descriptive statistics of all variables included in the analyses; Table 2 shows the bivariate
correlations between continuous variables.
- Tables 1 and 2 about here -
In the following, we will present the results of OLS and logistic regressions of religious
political assertion, participation in ethno-religious and mainstream organisations, and
trust in Belgian institutions. Detailed results of these regressions (coefficients, standard
errors and explanatory power) are presented in the appendix (Table A1). We
schematically present the results in Table 3, which shows the significant effects of the
main variables of interest (with + for positive and – for negative effects, 0 indicates a
non-significant effect).
- Table 3 about here -
With regard to the effects of identification, Table 3 shows that civic identification is
positively related to participation in mainstream organisations and trust in civic
institutions. In parallel, ethno-religious identification predicts religious assertion and
participation in ethno-religious organisations. Importantly, ethno-religious identification
turns out to be unrelated to mainstream forms of political engagement, but importantly, is
In exploratory analyses, we also included indicators for city of the participant (Brussels=1, Antwerp=0),
citizenship (0=not a Belgian citizen) and employment status (student, inactive, unemployed or employed),
but found no significant effects. These indicators are therefore excluded for parsimony.
Dual identity under threat
not negatively related to them either. There is only one significant interaction between
civic and ethno-religious identification, and it relates to participation in mainstream
organisations. To illustrate the interaction, Figure 1 shows the predicted probabilities of
participating in mainstream organisations for combinations of high and low civic and
ethno-religious identification. The results are at odds with our first hypothesis on
politicised dual identities: the predicted probability of participation in mainstream
organisations is highest for high civic and low ethno-religious identifiers, whereas dual
identifiers (high on both) have medium levels of participation, which are only slightly
higher than those of low civic and high ethno-religious identifiers. In line with the
importance of identification for political participation, those who have low levels of
identification with both types of identity are least likely to participate in mainstream
organisations. All in all, our first hypothesis that dual identifiers are most likely to be
politically engaged (in all domains) finds little empirical support.
- Figure 1 about here -
Regarding our second and third hypotheses about the effects of identity threat, Table 3
shows that compatibility does not unequivocally enhance political engagement, thus
refuting H2a. Our expectation that ethno-religious and mainstream forms of engagement
would be equally positively affected by identity compatibility (or the absence of identity
threat) is not supported either, as perceived discrimination and incompatibility have
differential effects on the four types of engagement under study, thus refuting H2b. In
line with H3, those who report more frequent discrimination are more likely to participate
Dual identity under threat
in both ethno-religious and mainstream organisations as most activist or contentious
forms of political engagement. Yet, in partial support of H2a, participants who report
more frequent experiences of unfair or hostile treatment have less trust in civic
institutions. In line with previous findings (Fleischmann, Phalet & Klein, 2011) and again
refuting H2a, perceived discrimination does not support religious political assertion.
Perceived incompatibility, which we conceived as a more direct measure of threat
to the second-generation’s dual identity, is found to be largely unrelated to political
engagement. The strong positive association with religious assertion and the weak
negative relation with political trust support our expectation that incompatibility leads to
a withdrawal within the ethno-religious community and distancing from mainstream
engagement (H3). Importantly, these findings hold regardless of the order in which
indicators of identity threat and dual identity are entered in the analyses (available upon
Interestingly, the associations between different indicators of political
engagement do not support the idea that ethno-religious forms of engagement (i.e.,
religious assertion and engagement in ethno-religious organisations) stand in the way of
mainstream engagement. Although religious political assertion (i.e., Muslim tribunals,
Muslim political organisations, headscarves) is highly contested among the majority
population, the second generation may support religious assertion without disengaging
from the mainstream. On the contrary, religious political assertion goes along with more
trust in Belgian institutions. Moreover, the positive association between participation in
ethno-religious and in mainstream organisations highlights that different forms of
political engagement are not mutually exclusive, but rather reinforce one another.
Dual identity under threat
Finally, it should be noted that the explanatory power of identification, perceived
discrimination and incompatibility, together with the control variables, is modest yet
significant – over and above strong effects of education, gender and ethnic background.
Only for religious political assertion, we explain around 20% of the variance r; for the
other outcomes, explained variances are below 10% (see Table A1).
How important are dual identities for political engagement, and what are the political
implications of the perception that one’s ethnic and religious minority identities cannot be
combined with civic identities proper? Our study among the Turkish- and MoroccanBelgian second generation in two major Belgian cities sought to provide answers to these
questions. Its aims were to shed light on a political dimension of second-generation
integration into European societies. To this end, we analysed the patterns of political
engagement and their differential associations with dual identification and identity threat.
Specifically, we assessed minorities’ support for religious political assertion and
participation in ethno-religious organisations as indicators of their political engagement
within minority communities. In addition, we also assessed their participation in
mainstream organisations and their trust in civic institutions as indicators of mainstream
political engagement. Together, the four indicators used in our study ranged from
conventional to contentious political attitudes and behaviour. Putting to a test the notion
that dual identity enables politicisation (cf. Simon & Klandermans, 2001), we expected
dual identifiers to be most likely to engage in all four forms of politics. In addition, those
who perceive more threat to their dual identity (in the form of perceived discrimination or
Dual identity under threat
incompatibility of their ethno-religious and civic identities) were expected to disengage
from conventional political action. More specifically, we expected and found perceived
discrimination to go along with increased levels of organisational participation, in line
with a conception of political activism as aimed to redress intergroup inequality.
Perceived incompatibility was related to support for religious assertion, yet disconnected
from active political participation.
To conclude, the analyses of recent large-scale survey data provide little support
for the idea that dual identity is crucial for political engagement. Thus, civic
identification uniquely predicted trust in Belgian institutions; and ethno-religious
identification uniquely predicted participation in ethno-religious organisations. Only
participation in mainstream organisations was a function of dual identification, Yet, the
negative sign of the interaction again contradicts the idea that dual identifiers are more
politically engaged than those who do not identify highly with both ethno-religious and
civic identities. Lastly, we find opposite effects of ethno-religious (positive) and civic
identifications (negative) on religious political assertion, which is theoretically closest to
the original concept of politicisation as developed by Simon and Klandermans (2001).
Rather than finding evidence for the politicising role of dual identity, our results
indicate that dual identity increases participation in mainstream organisations for low
civic identifiers, yet it decreases participation for high ethno-religious identifiers. This
suggests that in an intergroup context where dual identities are not accepted by the
majority population, civic identification is a more conducive route to political
engagement than dual identification.
Dual identity under threat
The perceived incompatibility of Islamic and Western life-styles and perceived
discrimination were conceptualised as two important indicators of threat to the secondgeneration’s dual identity. Both indicators of dual identity threat were negatively related
to trust in Belgian institutions. In this regard, identity threat is related to political
disengagement. At the same time, perceived incompatibility was positively associated
with support for religious political assertion. This can be interpreted as evidence that
lacking identity compatibility, minorities will pursue political goals that exacerbate
political conflict with the majority population (or from a majority perspective: they will
radicalise). Supporting religious political assertion was, however, not related to more
political activism. Ironically those who perceived their identities to be incompatible and
who claimed a greater role for their religion in the political domain, were also least likely
to act upon these claims (cf. Fleischmann, Phalet & Klein, 2011). In contrast, perceived
discrimination was not only related to higher levels of engagement in ethno-religious
organisations, this mobilising effect of discrimination extends to mainstream
organisations as well. Furthermore, discrimination was unrelated to religious political
claims. The latter result is consistent with previous findings of the selective politicizing
effects of perceived discrimination in a study of collective action for religious minority
rights (Fleischmann, Phalet & Klein, 2011). Moreover, the present findings point to
voluntary organisations as a route to, or precursor of, collective action (cf. Klandermans
& Oegema, 1987; Klandermans, 2002). Combining the findings from the two studies, we
find that, unlike perceived incompatibility, perceived discrimination does not entice
political apathy. Instead, it fuels political participation and democratic protest. In line
with a European tradition of trade unionism and street protests for worker’s rights, the
Dual identity under threat
second generation looks beyond conventional politics and is aware of such tried and
tested political means to challenge inequality and to bring about social change.
Interestingly, especially the highly educated (i.e., those who are best equipped to turn
their grievances into effective political action) among the second generation perceive
discrimination and are politically engaged in (ethno-religious as well as mainstream)
organisations. Yet, the effects of perceived discrimination are robust predictors of
political engagement over and above education. Overall, the findings document the
coupling of perceived discrimination with increased political engagement among the
second generation.
With the exception of religious political assertion, the explanatory power of our models
focusing on dual identity, perceived incompatibility and perceived discrimination was
rather limited. This suggests that dual identity is not a major driving force for political
engagement among the second generation and that their political behaviour is not driven
in large part by identity-related concerns. However, rather than striving to test a complete
explanatory framework for second-generation political engagement, this paper aimed
primarily to examine the role of dual identity and identity threat. Future research can
study in more depth when, why and for which goals the children of immigrants in Europe
engage politically. A second limitation regards the use of existing survey data that cover
only the second immigrant generation. While allowing an empirical analysis of a large
group of randomly selected participants, this approach has drawbacks with regard to the
available participants and measures, which do not always perfectly match theoretical
Dual identity under threat
concepts. In our case, this concerns the measures of religious political assertion and of
incompatibility, which were limited to the religious domain. Moreover, we lack a direct
measure of dual identity. However, there is no consensus about the operationalisation of
dual identity in the literature (cf. Klandermans et al. 2008; Simon & Ruhs 2008; Simon &
Grabow, 2010) and our approach of using separate, but potentially interacting indicators
of two important identities follows common practice in acculturation research (Berry et
al., 2006; Hutnik, 1991). Furthermore, due to mandatory voting in Belgium, we could not
analyse voting behaviour, although this dependent variable figures prominently in
research on political engagement. Future work in other contexts should examine to what
extent and how dual identity and identity conflict matter for participation in elections.
Finally, the cross-sectional nature of our survey data prevents us from drawing
conclusions about the direction of causal relations and we are aware of possible feedback
loops from political engagement to identification. These data constraints should be
evaluated against the use of large-scale survey data among two significant minority
groups in Belgium and a systematic comparison of four distinct indicators of political
engagement as strengths of this study.
In contrast to the notion that dual identity is a prerequisite for political engagement, we
found that ethno-religious and civic identities of the Turkish and Moroccan second
generation in Belgium do not interact or sum up to predict political attitudes and
behaviours. On the contrary, dual identifiers were less likely to participate in mainstream
organisations. In line with expectations about the de-politicising role of threat to dual
Dual identity under threat
identity, perceiving identities to be incompatible restricted political engagement to the
ethno-religious community and to religious goals. Perceived discrimination, on the other
hand, was more consistently related to political participation, while at the same time
decreasing trust in important civic institutions. Our findings raise doubts about the
importance of (dual) identification for the political engagement of the second generation.
Instead, they highlight perceptions of unfair treatment as an important motivator to
become politically engaged and to actively strive for a more equal society.
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Dual identity under threat
Table 1
Descriptive statistics
Means (S.D.) or percentages
Religious assertion
2.64 (0.81)
Participation in ethno-religious organizations
Participation in mainstream organizations
Political trust
2.87 (0.70)
Civic identification
2.89 (1.48)
Ethno-religious identification
3.95 (1.28)
Perceived incompatibility
2.59 (0.81)
Personal discrimination
2.03 (0.91)
Highly educated
Dual identity under threat
Table 2
Descriptive statistics: bivariate correlations between continuous measures
Religious assertion
Civic identification
Ethno-religious identification
Personal discrimination
Note: Bold coefficients are significant at least at p < .05.
Dual identity under threat
Table 3
Overview of results of regression analyses
Civic id
Ethno-rel. id.
Civic * Ethrel. id.
Ethno-rel. part.
Mainstream part.
Political trust
Rel. assertion
Political trust
Dual identity under threat
Figure 1
Predicted probability of participation in mainstream organisations: Interaction between
civic and ethno-religious identification
Civic identification
Ethno-religious identification Low
Ethno-religious identification High
Note: Predicted probabilities are based on the results of the full model in logistic
regression analysis (Table A1). The endpoints of the scales are chosen as high and low
levels of civic and ethno-religious identification. These predicted probabilities have been
calculated for low-educated Moroccan men, with all continuous variables held constant at
the neutral mid-point of the scale.
Dual identity under threat
Table A1: Regression coefficients, standard errors and model fit for the four dependent variables
Religious political
Participation in co-ethnic
Participation in
mainstream organisations
-0.263 (0.057)
-1.201 (0.190)
-0.477 (0.162)
-0.381 (0.052)
Personal discrimination
-0.020 (0.025)
0.241 (0.083)
0.176 (0.076)
-0.112 (0.023)
Civic identification
-0.078 (0.018)
-0.034 (0.065)
0.223 (0.059)
0.081 (0.017)
Ethnorel. Identification
0.161 (0.018)
0.165 (0.068)
0.065 (0.056)
0.010 (0.017)
Civic * ethnorel. ident.
0.017 (0.011)
0.028 (0.039)
-0.086 (0.036)
0.004 (0.010)
0.339 (0.029)
0.087 (0.101)
-0.092 (0.091)
-0.086 (0.028)
-0.261 (0.046)
0.634 (0.156)
-0.043 (0.139)
0.116 (0.043)
-0.014 (0.045)
-0.609 (0.151)
-0.289 (0.136)
0.130 (0.042)
Highly educated
-0.026 (0.053)
0.560 (0.168)
0.462 (0.154)
-0.050 (0.049)
0.186 (0.101)
-0.080 (0.093)
0.109 (0.028)
Participation co-ethnic
0.095 (0.050)
0.303 (0.148)
-0.001 (0.047)
Participation mainstream
-0.040 (0.046)
0.310 (0.149)
0.054 (0.042)
Religious political assertion
Political trust
Dual identity under threat
Political trust
0.128 (0.033)
-0.006 (0.110)
0.124 (0.100)
Note: Cells display unstandardised regression coefficients and their standard errors in parentheses. Bold coefficients are significant at least at p < .05. All
continuous variables are centred on the neutral midpoint of the scale. OLS regression was used for the analysis of religious political assertion and political trust,
and in these models the adjusted R2 is shown as indicator of explained variance. For participation in co-ethnic and mainstream organisations, logistic regression
was used and explained variance is expressed with Cox and Snell’s R2.
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