Political Intolerance among Masses and Elites in Israel: A Reevaluation of the Elitist Theory of Democracy

Michal Shamir

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44 Scopus citations


This study of political tolerance focuses on the political elites in Israel. It is based on elite and mass surveys and on a case-study analysis of the response of the Israeli political system to the entrance of two new outgroups in the 1980s. The results raise doubts as to the general application of elitist theory of democracy on three counts: First—in particular in situations of high threat and objection—the political elite does not seem to differ much in its attitudinal tolerance from the general public, yet nonpolitical elites do. Second, politically partisan calculations enter the decision-making process and produce dynamics of intolerance rather than tolerance. The political elite groups did not restrain each other, but rather cooperated in limiting more groups. And third, the moves to limit political groups were the affair of the elites, even though there was widespread intolerance within the public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1043
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Ford Grant No. 12 C-l through the Israel Foundations Trustees and by the Golda Meir Institute for Social and Labor research at Tel-Aviv University. The author gratefully acknowledges this financial support.


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