The Centrist Authoritarian

71 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2013

Date Written: March 27, 2012


Although it is widely believed that political conservatism and authoritarianism are part of the same personality, cluster of attitudes, or syndrome, the link between authoritarianism and conservatism has not been examined systematically in representative samples of the general U.S. public. This study reviews 27 studies that have asked F-Scale or similar authoritarianism questions from the 1952 American National Election Study through the 2004 General Social Survey, finding that moderates and Democrats tend to score as relatively authoritarian, while liberals and Republicans tend to score as relatively non-authoritarian. Breaking down by interactions of party and political orientation, moderate and conservative Democrats tend to be the most authoritarian subgroups, while conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats tend to be the least authoritarian subgroups. Thus in the general public, high authoritarians tend to be found in the political center and center-left (moderate and conservative Democrats), while low authoritarians tend to be found at the political extremes (conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats). It appears that the conflation of authoritarianism with conservatism so common in studies of students and other unrepresentative samples (Stone, 1980; Jost et al., 2003a; Altemeyer, 1996, 1998) does not hold in representative samples of the general U.S. public.

Keywords: authoritarianism, authoritareian, conservative, liberal, moderate, conservatism

Suggested Citation

Lindgren, James T., The Centrist Authoritarian (March 27, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

James T. Lindgren (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
773-294-9043 (Phone)

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