Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

Conservative or Liberal? Extreme Views and Feeling Superior

Are conservatives or liberals more politically arrogant?

A recent study in the journal Psychological Science looked at political views and the belief in the superiority of one’s views. The study tested two competing hypotheses: the hypothesis that conservatives are more stubborn and dogmatic about their political views (the rigidity-of-the-right hypothesis), or that more extreme views, right-leaning or left-leaning, cause the individual to believe that his or her political views are superior to others.

The results showed that conservatives tended to be more rigid and dogmatic than liberals, but it was the extreme political view—far right or far left—that led people to believe that their ideas were better and “more correct.”

This research also showed that there were certain “hot button” issues for liberals and conservatives. Extreme conservatives believed that their views about three topics were more superior: (1) the need to require voters to show identification when voting; (2) taxes, and (3) and affirmative action. Extreme liberals, on the other hand, believed that their views were superior on (1) government aid for the needy; (2) the use of torture on terrorists, and (3) not basing laws on religion. The fact that extreme liberals and conservatives focus on different political issues is interesting because it suggests that they are oriented toward different political topics, rather than extreme liberals and conservatives debating the same, core issues.

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Toner, K., Leary, M.R., Asher, M.W., & Jongman-Sereno, K.P. (2013). Feeling superior is a bipartisan issue: Extremity (not direction) of political views predicts perceived belief superiority. Psychological Science, published online, October, 2013.

  

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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