Self-perceived threats to social identity as predictors of right -wing authoritarianism

Leathe P Allard, Fordham University


Right-wing authoritarian attitudes and behaviors have been shown to increase in response to a wide variety of fears and threats. These include threats to the individual, such as fear of failure and fear of death (Greenberg et al., 1990; Schultz, Stone, & Christie, 1997), and threats to the society (Feldman & Stenner, 1997; McCann, 1997, 1999; Sales, 1972, 1973). One class of threats that have not been adequately investigated, however, are threats to social identity. Duckitt (1989) hypothesized that social identity and strong emotional investment to the in-group are core-organizing features of authoritarianism. The more invested one is with the in-group, the more willing one is to: submit to in-group norms (authoritarian conventionalism), obey ingroup leaders (authoritarian submission), and punish those who deviate from group norms (authoritarian aggression). The present research evaluated the prediction of authoritarianism by emotional investment in and attachment to chosen in-groups. Participants were 155 undergraduates who completed questionnaire packages that asked them to identify their school-based social group (eg. “Preps,” “Jocks,” “Nerds,” “Theatre”), and then contemplate that group membership while completing three measures of social identity, demographic items, and the Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) Scale (Altemeyer, 1996). School-based social group were evaluated because membership in these groups are insecure, in that they are based on mutable, changeable, and unstable factors (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Consistent with hypotheses, it was found that RWA scores positively correlated with the Social Group Attachment Scale (SGAS)-Anxiety subscale (Smith, Murphy, & Coats, 1999), a measure of participants' insecurity surrounding acceptance by the in group and fears of rejection by the in-group. RWA scores were also significantly positively correlated with group social status, religiosity, Asian ethnicity, “Preps/Jocks” group membership, and lower parental educational attainment. Stepwise hierarchical regression analysis revealed that the SGAS-Anxiety predicted a significant portion of the variance in RWA, over and above all of these other significant predictors. These results suggest the robustness of the relationship between insecurity in social identity and right-wing authoritarianism.

Subject Area

Personality|Social psychology|Political science

Recommended Citation

Allard, Leathe P, "Self-perceived threats to social identity as predictors of right -wing authoritarianism" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159381.