Are Nativists a Different Kind of Democrat? Democratic Values and “Outsiders” in Japan



This paper combines three elements: a discussion of democratic values and the status of outsiders in Japanese political culture, the development of new measures to examine sensitive issues of nativism and foreigner perception in Japan, and an empirical exploration of the relationship between democratic values and antipathy toward outsiders. Two forms of democratic orientation were investigated in a sample of about 1,000 university students in Japan: a defensive version, which adheres to the formalistic requirements of democracy but is exclusionary and illiberal, and a universalist version that is liberal and tolerant. A defensive orientation is associated with greater chauvinism, a greater sense of threat emanating from foreigners, and a heightened anxiety about economic competition. A universalist orientation is associated with low perceived threat and low chauvinism, a lack of fear of economic competition, and a positive view of the cultural contributions of outsiders. Nativism may indeed be compatible with democratic values, but only with the defensive, exclusionary form. In short, the defensive form is democracy for xenophobes. Such an orientation is not unique to Japan, but is likely to be found in developing democracies as well as in advanced democracies that feel threatened.