Majority Nationalism Laws and the Equal Protection of Minorities: Experimental and Observational Evidence from Israel

Western societies are increasingly enacting majority nationalism laws, intended to strengthen majority culture. We propose that these laws alter public attitudes about the equal protection of minorities and that their impact varies between majorities and minorities. To explore this issue, we examine the impact of Israel’s Nation Law on both the Jewish Majority and Arab minority. Experimental evidence from before the law’s passage reveals that, when the Law is presented as likely to pass, both minority and majority respondents perceive the law as permitting minority discrimination in housing, voting rights, and the labor market. Yet panel and cross-sectional data show that only minority respondents change their perceptions after enactment of the Nation Law: they came to believe that its passage eroded their legal status. These findings expose the political effects of majority nationalism laws, particularly on minorities, and highlight the law’s heterogenous expressive effects.