Social Distance in Iraq and Lebanon

Research has found that tensions, conflicts, and wars worsen the views groups hold towards each other and, plausibly, increase social distance (Parks 1924; Bogardus 1925; Owen et al. 1981; Siber 1997; Parrillo and Donoghue 2005; Oswald 2005; Strabac 2016). Since the twentieth century the Middle East is caught up in interlocking pattern of crises, conflicts, wars, and terrorism. Almost every country in the region have serious problems in social and political stability. The focus of this study is to investigate levels of social distance in conflict areas like Iraq and Lebanon where thousands of people have been killed and displaced because of civil wars and counter-terrorism. We use Arab Democracy Barometer Survey data, Wave II, a nationally representative data on ten Middle Eastern countries collected between 2010-2011, to investigate the determinants of social distance. We are specifically interested to see the relative importance of: practicing religious rituals i.e. praying, fasting, attending Friday prayer/Sunday service; sectarian/denominational identification; and voting behavior as determinants of social distance. Our findings indicate that Iraqis have higher levels of social distance than the Lebanese.Further, controlling for age, gender, education, and geographical area (urban vs rural) we found a negative association between practicing religious rituals and social distance. Finally, we found a negative association between in-group identification, in-group favoritism, and the outcome variable.

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