• cultural threat;
  • ethnic prejudice;
  • immigration;
  • nationalism;
  • Northern Ireland;
  • Ulster unionism


Cultural threat has emerged as a consistent predictor of anti-immigrant and anti-minority attitudes across many different national contexts. We examine this issue in the context of Northern Ireland using representative survey data, suggesting that Protestant and unionist communities experience a higher level of cultural threat than Catholic and nationalist communities on account of the ‘parity of esteem’ principle that has informed changes in the province since the Belfast Agreement of 1998. Our analyses confirm that, although there is evidence for some level of anti-immigrant sentiment across all groups, Protestants and unionists do indeed report relatively more negative attitudes towards a range of immigrant and ethnic target groups compared with Catholics, nationalists or respondents who do not identify with any political category. The analyses further suggest that their higher level of perceived cultural threat partially accounts for this difference. We argue that cultural threat can be interpreted as a response to changes in Northern Ireland that have challenged the dominant status enjoyed by Protestants and unionists in the past. More generally, we argue that a politicised characterisation of cultural threat needs to be elaborated through future work. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.