Constitutional patriotism, liberal nationalism and membership in the nation: An empirical assessment

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Liberal nationalists contend that moderate cultural nationalism promulgates liberal practices, while constitutional patriots stress its illiberal consequences, arguing that attachment to political democratic norms is more inclusive than cultural attachment. Although this issue has been the subject of extensive normative debate, it has rarely been studied empirically. This article addresses the question: How are political and cultural patriotism related to people's perceptions of national membership? To this end, it distinguishes between 'political patriotism', which reflects the principles of constitutional patriotism, and 'cultural patriotism' as an expression of liberal nationalism. Employing survey data from 15 Western democracies, the study explores the structure of these components of national identity, their empirical distinctiveness and their cross-country comparability. The way(s) in which cultural and political patriotism are related to people's conceptions of the nation is examined by models that analyze their relationship to the criteria of national membership. The results reveal that, virtually ubiquitously, cultural patriotism is positively correlated to ethnic, cultural and political criteria of membership, whereas political patriotism is principally correlated solely to political criteria. To a certain degree, these findings support the assertions made by constitutional patriotism on the one hand and disprove those linked to liberal nationalism on the other.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)294-319
Number of pages26
JournalActa Politica
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • constitutional patriotism
  • cross-national
  • liberal nationalism
  • national identity
  • survey

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations


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