During the recent refugee crisis across Europe, we observed salient and polarised attitudes about immigration issues, strongly related to conceptions of national identity and group boundaries. However, many Europeans engaged in solidarity activism supporting the rights of refugees and immigrants (Lahusen, 2020; della Porta, 2018; Toubøl, 2017). Such activism is a form of external solidarity benefiting the vulnerable (Santos, 2020; Hunt & Benford, 2004). It reflects concern about the wellbeing of others in a form of activism that new social movement scholars describe as rooted in fundamental value conflicts and moral commitments (Passy, 1998; Kriesi, 1993; Kriesi, 1990; della Porta & Rucht, 1995; Melucci et al., 1989). Accordingly, axiological factors, namely, values and moral norms, can be considered drivers to activism on behalf of refugees, which concern politicised identities grounded in ideational solidarity projects.

However, how does axiological factors guide refugee solidarity activism? This chapter affirms that universal value orientations and generalised moral commitments denote abstract systems of beliefs and orientations of care favouring support and commitment to all vulnerable groups around us, including refugees. What is at stake is the degree of universality of the activist caring orientations to others. From this perspective, I respond to the following questions: First, how does universal value orientations refer to two distinct dimensions relevant to refugee solidarity activism? Second, how does axiological drivers, namely, universal value orientations and generalised moral commitments, sustain activists’ engagement in favour of the rights of refugees?

Values refer to abstract conceptions of what people identify as desirable (Halman, 2007; Van Deth & Scarbrough, 1995; Kriesi, 1990; Rokeach, 1968). They guide activists in relationship to the subjects they care about (e.g. refugees), providing justification and political rationale for engagement. In addition, scholars have emphasised that activists make sacrifices because they are also motivated by their moral commitments (van Zomeren, 2015; Van Stekelenburg & Klandermans, 2010; Melucci, 1995). Moral commitments are central to activists’ group identification, providing cues about how to view others and themselves (Van der Toorn et al., 2015). Accordingly, the activists’ universal value orientations and moral commitments should favour refugee solidarity activism.

This research draws upon three strands

of literature to develop the theoretical explanation of the axiological drivers for refugee solidarity activism. The first theoretical foundation reflects the political understandings of solidarity, analysing it as a relational behaviour while discussing the moral sources of activism with refugees. The second literature strand examines values and moral reasoning in models of action, with special attention to their association with contentious political behaviour. Following this line of analysis, I investigate and describe the axiological drivers to refugee solidarity activism. The last theoretical foundation is transversal to the first two, building on social movement literature on solidarity while connecting studies on individual values and moral commitments to the studied solidarity mobilisations.

To examine these claims, I focus on individual practices of activism during the 2015 refugee crisis in 8-EU countries. Using a novel indicator for differentiated caring orientations towards vulnerable groups, I conclude that universal value orientations explain important variations in activism with refugees. Results illustrate the interplay between universal value orientations and moral commitments in shaping and orienting activism towards refugees, independent to the activist’s interpersonal-ties to the beneficiary group. Lastly, the theoretical foundations are tested using a cross-national EU survey data collected in 2016–2017 to measure solidarity dimensions with respect to people’s behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. Findings suggest a notable theoretically robustness for the axiological predictors on refugee solidarity activism. The findings provide also lessons on how axiological drivers link solidarity mobilisations and immigration issues.

Theoretical Framework

Solidarity in Mobilisations to Support the Rights of Refugees

Solidarity can be understood as prosocial engagement but also as a source of motivation for such engagement. Therefore, solidarity entails a functional and normative role in addition to an empirical observable practice (Fernández G. G. 2021; Gerhards et al., 2019; Banting and Kymlicka, 2017; Schroeder and Graziano, 2015; Scholz, 2008). Findings from this research illustrate how individual political engagement on behalf of others supposes a solidarity relation of support and care, meaning ‘taking and having an interest in others’, that can result from noninterpersonalties ties. As such, refugee solidarity activism denotes (1) a process of recognition, (2) which then results in individuals’ contentious political engagement favouring the rights of refugees.Footnote 1 This solidarity process describes the actors’ ability to recognise others and themselves as belonging to common social configurations (Polletta, 2020; Santos, 2020; Tilly, 2005; Melucci, 19961995). This form of engagement supposes behaviours contributing to collective endeavours grounded in common moral norms (Scholz, 2008; Hechter, 1987; Durkheim, 1973).

With respect to activism, social movement scholars have a long-standing debate about solidarity’s role in individuals’ participation in contentious politics. Solidarity in activism has been described to be grounded on identity dynamics of ‘we-ness’ (Tilly, 2005; Tilly, 2001; Melucci, 1996; Gamson, 1991; Gamson, 1975) and stemming from common experiences, feelings, values and moral commitments (Carlsen et al., 2020; Jasper, 2008). Hence, acting in solidarity is the result of multiple social interactions and of the individual’s self-understanding (Carlsen et al., 2020; Passy & Monsch, 2020; Diani & McAdam, 2003).

Building on political theories of solidarity and social movements studies, refugee solidarity activism can be then understood as individual political acts of care: ‘acts carried out in order to support others, or at the very least to describe a disposition to help and assist’ (Bayertz, 1999: 308). Indeed, solidarity can describe acts of care and support that distinguish between interpersonal solidarity ties and non-interpersonal solidarity ties, aligned with social movement theories regarding internal and external sources of solidarity. Political theorist Peter Klaus Rippe (1998) argues that solidarity acts in modern societies can be grounded on both interpersonal relationships and civic virtues as project-driven solidarities. This conception of solidarity seizes two orientations of the individual solidarity activism, external and internal, depending on whether the individual contribution to the collective action benefits the activists or not (Hunt & Benford, 2004).

Thus, the political dimension of refugee solidarity activism denotes motivations to care and act as moral agents in response to others’ vulnerabilities (Lynch et al., 2020; Santos, 2020; Tronto, 1993). Scholars have argued that individual actions of political solidarity result from moral commitments, where solidarity entails, ‘a moral relation formed when individuals or groups unite around some mutually recognised political need or goal in order to bring about social change’ (Scholz, 2015:732). In this perspective, new social movement scholars describe refugee solidarity activism as rooted in fundamental value conflicts and moral commitments, linked to voicing individuals’ political values and belief systems (Giugni & Passy, 2001,; della Porta & Rucht, 1995; Kriesi, 1993; Kriesi, 1990; Melucci et al., 1989). Thereupon, refugee solidarity activism concerns political acts in response to individuals’ value threats and moral commitments (Sabucedo et al., 2017; Verhulst, 2012). Accordingly, axiological drivers (values and moral commitments) underpin the ideational solidarity projects and the social configurations in which refugee solidarity activism is grounded.

Values and Refugee Solidarity Activism

Empirical analysis of the role of values in political engagement advances that values differ from attitudes and behaviours because they are underlying orientations informing and guiding individuals’ political actions and commitments (Toubøl, 2019; Halman, 2007; Van Deth & Scarbrough, 1995). In this vein, there is notable consensus in the literature for values as stable and fundamental principles central to the self-identity (Vecchione et al., 2015; Bardi et al., 2014; Schwartz, 2007; Kriesi, 1990). Although some perspectives differ, for the most part, values are conceptualised as principles guiding individual behaviour based on what is right or desirable (Schwartz, 2007; Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004; Kriesi, 1990).

Indeed, values have been widely studied as motivational factors for various forms of political behaviour, enriching the models and conceptualisations of activism (Miles, 2015; Schwartz, 2007). New social movement scholars suggest that solidarity activism is grounded on loose ties, focusing on cultural and symbolic conflicts related to moral and identity concerns (della Porta & Rucht, 1995; Kriesi, 1990, 1993; Melucci et al., 1989), having a genuine political orientation based on the individual value orientations. These research conclude that solidarity activism tends to surpass local arenas, suggesting various levels of identification based on postmaterialist concerns and left-libertarian ideological values (Giugni & Passy, 2001; Passy, 1998; della Porta & Rucht, 1995).

Nevertheless, to better capture the role of values in refugee solidarity activism, I suggest that we need to analyse values as bi-dimensional (i.e. normative and relational). I distinguish between values as ‘abstract imperatives to political action’ and values as ‘embodying individual caring orientations’, which I examine through the bi-dimensionality of universal value orientations. First, I consider how universal value orientations denote abstract systems of beliefs guiding refugee solidarity activism. Second, I illustrate how universal value orientations denote activists’ care orientations.

Research on the abstract dimension of values analyse how values suppose a sense of devoir to individuals that goes beyond immediate goals (Gorski, 2017; Fuchs, 2017). In this sense, empirical perspectives about universal value orientations suppose a valuation criterion, where the taxonomy between universal and particular orientations has two ends of a continuum. Individuals are supposed to translate this continuum into drivers of action and attitudes towards groups and people (Davidov et al., 2008; Blau, 1962; Parsons & Shils, 1951). Universal and particular value orientations uphold a crucial divide about valuation standards leading to political behaviour. The behaviour is particularly oriented when it discriminates between groups based on internal features or shared ties. Conversely, it is universally oriented when applied to every possible set of circumstances, independentof individuals’ ties, status and/or social categories of belonging (de Blasio et al., 2019; Blau 1962; Parsons and Shil 1951; Kant, 2002 [1788]). Research on individual activism indicates that universal value orientations relate to individual systems of beliefs about egalitarianism, humanitarian and welfare concerns in relation to others (Feldman & Steenbergen, 2001; Vecchione et al., 2015; Schwartz, 2007; Schwartz, 2006). Findings posit that universal value orientations are key predictors to the willingness of activists to favour outgroups politically (Borshuk, 2004). In this sense, refugee solidarity activism supposes recognition of a universal social configuration—‘humanity’.

That said these studies underestimate the relational dimension of values on universal caring orientations across groups. Research on the attitudes towards immigrants’ social rights underscore the importance of perceptions of deservingness to downplay intergroup boundaries (Gerhards et al., 2019, Gerhards & Dilger, 2020; Fernández G. G., 2019; Banting and Kymlicka, 2017; Reesken and van Oorschot, 2012; van Oorschot, 2006). Research on solidarity supporting vulnerable groups also finds that people oriented towards high levels of deservingness and care across social groups positively impact civic and political solidarity activism for refugees (Maggini & Fernández G. G., 2019). In this sense, a universal value orientation of care is what favours refugee solidarity activism.

Self-centred perspectives concerning activists’ behaviour suggest that the rationale behind individual political engagement is a result of an extended self (Miles, 2015). In this sense, acting on behalf of others could be considered as a by-product of a generalised and larger ‘we’, capturing individual caring concerns to various social groups. Therefore, beyond a normative conception, values give rationale to actions because they are relational. Values inhabit social worlds through the actions and caring orientations of individuals. As Gorski (2017: 429) explains, ‘values are indeed “in the world” but not in the form of “the good” but of “this good” and “that good”’. There is a need to understand universal value orientations as in constant interaction with their subject of care (e.g. vulnerable social groups). In that perspective, Martin and Lembo (2020:76) suggest that if we plucked values out from social interactions (only as abstract beliefs), we cannot account for the cognitive relation between the individual and the concrete subject of care.

Additionally, studies on outgroup activism posit that universal value orientations de-emphasise loyalties to specific groups (Borshuk, 2004; Gaertner & Dovidio, 2000). Absent in this research is the relationship between universal value orientations that favours individual caring behaviour across various vulnerable groups. As I argued before, refugee solidarity activism results from both individual universal value orientations (normative) and universal caring orientations (relational). What is at stake is the degree to which activists uphold universal caring orientations across groups. Indeed, the relational dimension of the universal value orientation supposes support and commitment to generalised ‘others’ grounded in a conception of ‘a larger us’ (Fernández G. G., 2021; Polletta, 2020). The relational dimension of the universal value orientations reflects what is of caring interest to the actor (Martin & Lembo, 2020; Lynch et al., 2020), meaning for the activist in relationship with his intention, attention and care towards refugees and other vulnerable groups:

Hypothesis 1 Universal Value Caring Orientations

The less individuals discriminate across vulnerable groups and report high caring concerns about their wellbeing, the more likely they are to engage in refugee solidarity activism.

Thus, if the relation of care is universal, it is expected to transcend particularised self-understandings or group identification. High caring concerns sustain both dimensions of the universal value, namely, normative conception and relational orientations of concerns between the activists and the various vulnerable groups.

Moral Commitments in Refugee Solidarity Activism

As discussed above, new social movements comprise fundamental value conflicts and mobilise specific and moral understandings about society (Giugni & Passy, 2001; Kriesi, 1993 1986). The latter is particularly relevant for social movements such as refugee solidarity mobilisations that arise in relation to moral commitments (Sevelsted and Toubøl forthcoming). Hence, in addition to the bi-dimensionality of values, solidarity activism needs to be understood within complex social systems. Values inhabit social realms in relationship with groups’ moral norms. Scholarly research on values and morality indicates that moral norms reflect shared systems of beliefs anchored in social groups (Ellemers, 2017; Vaisey & Miles, 2014). Moral norms are processual tools to solve social and political problems orienting individual behaviour (Ellemers et al., 2019; Halman, 2007; Kriesi, 1993; Kriesi, 1990). Therefore, activists are not passive holders of individual value systems (Kriesi, 1993; Kriesi, 1990), but instead they give rationale to their political engagement through values in relationship to the social maps provided by the moral norms of their groups.

With respect to individuals’ engagement in contentious political behaviour, commitments to moral norms are means for political action resulting from moral understandings (van Zomeren, 2015). Accordingly, to understand the role of axiological drivers in refugee solidarity activism, it is also necessary to examine the activists’ moral commitments. As suggested by Lynch et al. (2020) ‘knowing how people relate normatively is part of knowing them sociologically (Lynch et al., 2020:2).’Moral commitments are central to individual group membership and are key prisms about how we view others and ourselves (van der Toorn et al., 2015; van Stekelenburg and Klandermans, 2010). As such, the convergence between universal value orientations and the moral norms held by the activists should favour their political engagement in refugee solidarity mobilisations.

Scholars advance that moral norms can be embodied in generalised moral commitments, which refer to normative-led commitments and understandings of shared values describing how people locate themselves socially, according to what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (Ellemers, 2017; van Zomeren et al., 2012). It posits that generalised moral commitments inform us about what people and groups identify and conceive as desirable and therefore engage politically to preserve it (Vaisey & Miles, 2014).

Indeed, generalised moral commitments and universal value orientations relate to social movements activism and solidarity mobilisations. Refugee solidarity activists engage in universal issues like solidarity mobilisations to support the rights of refugees due to their generalised moral commitments to distant others—humanity (Sabucedo et al., 2017; Verhulst, 2012). These ideational moral understandings render individual identification with social movements’ issues a matter of project-driven solidarity, making it probably stronger and perhaps even long-lasting. Literature has illustrated that generalised moral commitments relate positively to protesting behaviour because activists engage politically to express and protect their worldviews (Passy & Monsch, 2020; Verhulst, 2012; Klandermans et al., 2008; Klandermans, 2002). Through project-driven solidarities based on ideational moral understandings, activists engage in refugee solidarity mobilisations without benefiting directly from any success but from generalised moral commitment to common political projects. Accordingly, individual moral commitments can drive activists’ solidarity between both like-minded individuals and people in need (Polletta, 2020; van Zomeren, 2015; van Zomeren, 2013).

Such generalised moral commitments concern altruistic understandings of common goods grounded in universal civic virtues. Thus, it follows that universal civic virtues should not generate differentiated caring orientations across groups because in principle they guide generalised altruistic actions independently of the beneficiaries. In sum, this type of moral commitment refers to a generalised object of care (e.g. all, everyone or humanity). In this sense, literature suggest that activists engage in refugee activisms to protect and promote their generalised moral commitments within action-oriented frames (van Zomeren, 2013, 2015)—meaning project-driven solidarities. Indeed, activists holding generalised moral commitments should engage more in refugee solidarity activism as their group norms are in accordance with universal humanitarian concerns and values:

Hypothesis 2 Generalised Moral Commitments

Individuals who report generalised moral commitments when engaging in prosocial behaviour (e.g. volunteering) are more likely to engage in solidarity mobilisations to support refugees, as civic virtues vis-à-vis common goods, fairness and equality shape their moral commitments.

Data and Measurements

Analysis in this study draws upon a comprehensive 8-EU country dataset (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) collected in 2016–2017 from the EU-funded research project, TransSOL,Footnote 2 to measure individual forms and factors related to transnational solidarity. The pooled dataset contains 16,916 respondents (Level 2 N), with minimum 2061 to 2221 respondents per country. The sampling strategy corresponds to a randomised sample, designed to match national populations’ distributions on education, age, gender and region. The survey questionnaire sought to address the various dimensions of solidarity based on standardised cross-national measures of people’s behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. To test the above-identified hypotheses, this study employed Bayesian statistical analyses using the full dataset in combination with a logistic multilevel random intercept model. Appendix 4.1 to this chapter contains all variables recordings used in the models.

The dependent variable, i.e. refugee solidarity activism, is operationalised as a binary variable (0 1), and refugee solidarity activism is coded as outcome (1) where individuals stated they engaged in any of the following forms of contentious political behaviour to support refugees: Have you ever done any of the following in order to support the rights of refugees/asylum seekers—attended a march, protest, and demonstration or engaged as an active member of an organisation?

In addition, two axiological independent covariates were used to examine refugee solidarity activism: one universal value orientations covariate and one moral covariate.

The bi-dimensionality of universal value orientations (normative and relational) was measured on a continuum (universal-particular) as a scale variable based on a series of items related to respondents’ willingness to improve the conditions of five different target groups. Each group was measured using a relative valuation criterion with respect to the four other groups, and then the individual relative group absolute differences were added in one scale variable. Hence, this created a continuum between particular and universal value orientations of care. Individuals committed to support vulnerable groups equally are coded as universal (normative and relationally), while the variation across groups’ relative scores is reflected as gradients of support in the continuum between universal value orientations of care up to the opposite pole of particular value orientations of care. The original question corresponds to the following items: To what extent would you be willing to help improve the conditions of the following groups: migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, people with disabilities and unemployed people? (1, Not at all; 2, Not very; 3, Neither; 4, Quite; 5, Very much)

Concerning to the moral covariate, a generalised measure was used to access the impact of moral commitments related to civic virtues in relationship to generalised prosocial behaviour: People do unpaid work or give help to all kinds of groups for all kinds of reasons. Thinking about all the groups, clubs or organisations you have helped over the last 12 months, did you start helping them for any of the reasons on this list? A 17-item list of potential responses was coded as binary variables (0 1).

The category: I felt that it was a moral duty to help others in need was used as generalised moral commitment when chosen, outcome (1).

Other Explanatory Factors

A common claim in social sciences suggests that individuals are more likely to act in solidarity with people in groups of which they are members or of which their kin and friends belong (Giugni & Grasso, 2019). Additionally, McAdam (1986, 2009) demonstrates that affiliation to political organisations, previous history of activism and interpersonal ties between activists are key factors on the mobilisation of the freedom summer activists. Thus, to model refugee solidarity activism, this study controls for the interpersonal ties of activists to the beneficiary group, activists’ political interest, structural availability (organisational embeddedness), political ideology and previous practices of activism.

Moreover, social capital approaches are also of crucial importance with regard to the enhancement of civic virtues and tolerance (Van Deth et al., 2007; Putnam, 2000). Hence, the study controls for the covariation related to people’s social embeddedness and dispositions (i.e. socialising with friends and religiosity) in relation to refugee solidarity activism. With respect to individual characteristic of the activists engaging in solidarity mobilisations, scholars assert that socio-demographic characteristics are key explanatory factors of protesting behaviour. Research on political participation identifies factors such as income and education as important socio-economic predictors of political behaviour (Dalton, 2008). The younger and highly educated people are expected to have higher levels of support towards immigrant rights (Helbling & Kriesi, 2014). Additionally, research on prosocial behaviour underscores the importance of gender when assessing woman’s role in caring activities; thus, this study finally controls for the cultural allocation of women’s role as more emphatic and displaying higher solidarity behaviour than men (Wilson, 2000; Gallagher, 1994).

Accordingly, control variables in this study include age squared as a continuous variable and three dummy variables that account for gender, citizenship and social proximity to refugees. Additionally, the models used include other socio-demographic covariates, such as education as a categorical variable and income as a scale variable. Further standard controls for political attitudes and predispositions include political interest, discussing politics and previous activism in political association. Additional controls include the following: social capital measures are controlled based on associational embeddedness and contacts; social beliefs (e.g. religiosity) and libertarian values are controlled using an index for libertarian-authoritarian values; and political economic values are controlled using a left-right scale. Appendix 4.1, Table 4.3 contains all variable descriptions and distributions.


To predict and model the outcome variable, refugee solidarity activism, a Bayesian random intercept multilevel model was used with an upper level (countries) and lower-level individuals grouped by countries. Concerning the data structure, it is a randomised cross-sectional dataset. The upper level of analysis contained eight-country observations (Level 1), with the dataset not having any supplementary grouping structure (e.g. networks, spatial or temporal dependency). In addition to the random intercept multilevel model, and to break apart the dependence between the grouping structure and the covariates, I applied a Mundlak device and group mean centring for the continuous covariates. I opted for a Bayesian approach in order to reduce the possible bias in the estimation of parameters and confidence intervals when applying multilevel frequentist techniques based on a reduced upper N level and thus taking into account as well the nested structure.

Three Bayesian models were run to assess each individual predictors’ effects under control of covariates. As an additional source for a cross-validation of the models, fixed-effects models were run to confirm the Bayesian models results (see Appendix 4.2 Methodological Note). Concerning the overall models’ diagnostics, all Bayesian models used in this analysis converged. The posterior predicted checks show a good prediction of the observed data. Likewise, all parameters’ Rhats were equal to 1 or less than 1.01 advancing the models convergence.

Subsequently, three Bayesian multilevel random intercept logistic models (Bayesian MLM) were used to assess the covariations of the independent covariates and controls on refugee solidarity activism. Each model included a set of socio-demographic covariates (age, gender, income, citizenship and education); a set of social dispositions and interpersonal ties (socialising with friends, interpersonal ties to refugees, religiosity and social embeddedness); and a set of political covariates (discussions on politics with friends, political interest, authoritarian-libertarian index, political economic index and previous political activism). In the first step, I only used a random intercept model with one independent predictor (M1a to M2a). Then each of these models (M1 to M3) incorporated the full four-set of covariates to assess each predictor’s statistical credibility (see Appendix 4.3, Bayesian MLM M1 to M3). The full model (M3) shows that all independent covariates (universal value orientations and generalised moral commitments covariates) maintain their statistical credibility and continue to have a positive relationship with the dependent covariate (refugee solidarity activism).


The table on refugee solidarity activism (e.g. protesting participation and organisational activism) shows that 8.6% of the respondents engaged in at least one form of solidarity action to politically support refugee rights (see Table 4.1).

Table 4.1 Reported individual solidarity mobilisations in favour of the rights of refugees (in %)

Turning to the regression results for refugee solidarity activism, results in Models 1, 2 and 3 (Appendix 4.3) underscore the positive covariation on refugee solidarity activism of universal value orientations and generalised moral commitments covariates. However, as expected, with variable controls applied, the probability density of the higher credibility range of the parameter values was slightly reduced. The posterior highest density interval (HDI at 89%) for the universal value orientations covariate changed from [0.39, 0.48] to [0.26, 0.38]. Likewise, the HDI for the generalised moral covariate changed from [0.81, 1] to [0.48, 0.73]. The two independent covariates maintained a positive probability distribution vis-à-vis the dependent variable (refugee solidarity activism) using credible intervals settled at 95% (Appendix 4.3: m1, m2 and m3). Looking into the full model (M3) based on the two independent covariates and after controlling for socio-demographic, social dispositions and political covariates, the posterior distributions of the model’s independent covariates kept the full parameters’ probability distribution in the positive axe effect (Fig. 4.1).

Fig. 4.1
figure 1

Independent parameters and control covariates probability distributions concerning refugee solidarity activism

Model 3 (M3) validates the universal value orientation hypothesis (H1), meaning that activists who hold universal caring orientations across vulnerable groups are more likely to engage in solidarity mobilisations towards refugees. Likewise, M3 also validates that all two axiological variables enhance activism towards refugees, advancing that individuals engage in collective action towards refugees because of their personal values and generalised moral commitments.

Additionally, as expected for the control covariates, results confirm that educational levels, income and age continue to be relevant factors when explaining contentious political behaviour. Older people and people with higher income tend to engage less in collective action, as do people with lower levels of education. However, findings do not correlate the gender caring role of women with refugee solidarity activism nor the correlation of social categorisation of respondents’ national membership (citizenship) with refugee solidarity activism. In addition, as previously discussed, social proximity to refugees could enhance refugee solidarity activism due to interpersonal ties. Nevertheless, the results do not support theories on social identification and ties as drivers of refugee solidarity activism. Also, a major association was observed with respect to social dispositions covariates as they relate to social capital (i.e. social contacts with friends and participation in associations), substantiating the positive covariation between activism, social contacts and organisational embeddedness. This is in line with previous literature findings suggesting that civic behaviour and political engagement result from organisational settings and social norms (Van Deth et al., 2007; Putnam, 2000; Verba et al., 1995).

With regard to research results on refugee solidarity activism while controlling for political covariates, findings confirmed a positive covariation of libertarian values;new social movement literature affirms that activists’ identification with postmaterialist and left-libertarian ideologies enhances political solidarity. With respect to the relation of other political values on refugee solidarity activism, models confirm the underlying influence of ideological affinity in activism. Individuals who uphold left ideological orientations are more inclined to engage in solidarity mobilisations compared to individuals upholding right leaning orientations. A closer examination of political covariates results highlights that previous practices of activism are the strongest political predictor for engagement in refugee solidarity activism.

In addition to the understanding of the role of universal value orientations and moral reasoning, these findings support the conclusions of previous literature on activism suggesting that long-standing activism is a product of attitudinal affinity, as well as activist previous practices (Corrigall-Brown, 2012; McAdam, 1986, 2009).

To assess the significance of the estimated parameters, a region of practical equivalence test (ROPE) was performed (Kruschke & Liddell, 2018; Kruschke, 2014). The ROPE test rejected the region of practical equivalence as zero for the two independent parameters (universal value orientations and generalised moral commitments). This test confirmed that 89% most credible values are not contained in the practical equivalence region of the ROPE; therefore, the null hypothesis for these parameters did not hold for any of the models (M1 to M3). In summary, the HDIs are at 89% for the universal value orientation ranges [0.25, 0.35] and the generalised moral rationale [0.18, 0.44].

With regard to the universal value orientation in Hypothesis 1 (individuals reporting high caring concerns across vulnerable groups are more likely to engage in solidarity mobilisations to support refugees), findings confirmed that higher universal caring concerns for all vulnerable groups correlate with the increase in the predicted probabilities of refugee solidarity activism (see Fig. 4.2, Plot 1).

Fig. 4.2
figure 2

Individual predicted probabilities for universal value orientations and refugee solidarity activism

Plot 1 shows three different individual predicted probabilities for the universal value orientation variable for refugee solidarity activism while keeping all other covariates constant at their mean: (1) individuals displaying universal caring orientation situated less than one and half standard deviation from the mean, (2) individuals holding universal caring orientations at the variable mean and (3) individuals displaying universal caring orientations more than one and half standard deviation from the variable mean. Findings support that people reporting high levels of universal caring orientations across needy groups have an increased likelihood towards refugee solidarity activism, as they do not differentiate between the vulnerable groups as genuine solidarity recipients. Accordingly, findings for the predicted difference across the three individual scenarios advance a minimum 12.2% increase in the predicted probability of refugee solidarity activism for individuals holding more universal caring orientations compared to individual holding more particular caring orientations (see Plot 2, Fig. 4.2). This suggests that individuals holding universal caring orientations take and have an interest in vulnerable groups, as all equally genuine independently to social categorisations.

The findings support also the importance of moral commitments, in models of and explanations for political activism with refugees. This factor provides a rationale to engage politically because it encompasses normative and social understandings of the world. Individuals who report generalised moral commitments when engaging in prosocial behaviour (e.g. volunteering) are more likely to engage in solidarity mobilisations to support refugees. Figure 4.3 (Plot 1) supports that individuals with generalised moral commitments as motivational reasoning for prosocial engagement have a higher probability to engage in refugee solidarity activism relative to individuals without such generalised moral commitments. Figure 4.3 (Plot 2) reveals a 4.6% significant increase in the probability of refugee solidarity activism when comparing individuals among these two groups. The analysis found generalised moral commitments as positive covariates to solidarity activism, and as discussed previously, this is based on a moral understanding of universal civic virtues related to common goods, fairness and equality. This type of moral rationale suggests a relationship of care and interest towards a generalised, universal subject of care (e.g. all, everyone or humanity).

Fig. 4.3
figure 3

Moral covariates predicted probabilities for refugee solidarity activism

In summary, with regard to the relationship between axiological factors and refugee solidarity activism, findings confirm that universal value orientations (normative and relational) increase political solidarity towards refugees, in accordance with generalised moral commitments. As previously discussed, political solidarity behaviour relates to universal understandings of civic virtues and to moral commitments grounded in common ideational solidarity projects. Furthermore, results corroborate also the positive relationship between political covariates and social dispositions with respect to refugee solidarity activism. Models advance that refugee solidarity activism is a product of attitudinal affinity, previous political practices and organisational embeddedness, as well of axiological drivers. These axiological drivers are understood within complex relational systems between values and moral norms grounded in universal caring orientations to all vulnerable groups.


In this chapter, I examined values and moral commitments as covariates to individuals’ engagement in refugee solidarity mobilisations, aiming at understanding which axiological factors pull individuals to engage politically on behalf of distant others—specifically refugees. Two hypotheses were tested related to (1) universal caring orientations and (2) generalised moral commitments. Findings support that each of the independent variables is a key factor to analyse political solidarity activism towards refugees. I have also stressed the complex relationship between universal value orientations and moral commitments. Findings illustrate how universal value orientations of care relative to particular orientations shape the solidarity principle sustaining political activism in support of refugees. Results show that universal value orientations are relevant predictors of refugee solidarity activism as well as moral commitments targeting the wellbeing of refugees based on a generalised idea of humanity.

Moreover, I have confirmed the relevant associations of political and social dispositions covariates on refugee solidarity activism. Major commonalities across activists engaging in political solidarity towards refugees support that solidarity protestors share progressive attitudinal positions, uphold social ties to organisations and have engaged in previous practices of activism. According to the social movement studies on activism, social embeddedness and ideological affinity shape individual worldviews while increasing activism. Similarly, findings from this study substantiate that universal value orientations and moral commitments shape also activists’ worldviews. Therefore, this chapter posits that universal value orientations and moral commitments fuel activists’ solidarity with other groups in need. Refugee solidarity activism builds from a complex relationship between axiological drivers, which shape and orient project-driven solidarities with distant others, independent to the activist’s interpersonal ties to the beneficiary group.

Finally, this chapter contributes theoretically to previous literature by analysing values as bi-dimensional, upholding normative as well as relational orientations of care in relation to individuals’ solidarity political engagement. Findings support that through the lens of universal value orientations, political engagement on behalf of refugees entails a solidarity relation of support and care, namely, having and taking an interest in ‘others’. Therefore, what is at stake is not only how universal or discriminating is the valuation criteria of an activist but also how much he or she has universal caring orientations across groups. The relational dimension of the universal value orientation favours support and commitment to all other groups around ‘us’.

Thus, this chapter provides a relational account between the political actor and the subject of care that is independent to interpersonal ties but grounded in ideational solidarity projects. It uses a unique dataset to empirically corroborate these generalised theoretical standing, and it opens research to further discuss these associations within particular contextual settings. Therefore, the chapter provides new empirical evidence and develops avenues for research about the axiological drivers to political activism.