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Keywords:

  • tolerance;
  • social networks;
  • associational diversity;
  • contact theory;
  • Switzerland

Tolerance is a basic democratic principle that helps civil societies cope with rising levels of diversity stemming from increased immigration and individualism. During the last decade the question of how tolerance may be fostered has dominated debates in public and academic spheres. In this article, a closer look is taken at how associational diversity relates to the formation of tolerance and the importance of associations as schools of tolerance are evaluated. The main theoretical argument follows contact theory, wherein regular and enduring contact in diverse settings reduces prejudice and thereby increases an individual's tolerance toward objectionable groups. The empirical findings reveal a positive relationship between associational diversity and tolerance. It is observed, however, that the duration of active engagement in associations reduces this positive relation between diversity and tolerance. Accordingly, these results challenge the notion that associations serve as schools of tolerance in the long run.