Expertise and the ideological consequences of the authoritarian predisposition

Christopher M. Federico, Emily L. Fisher, Grace Deason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Research on the basis of political ideology indicates that psychological variables influence ideological positions. In particular, the role of authoritarianism is of long-standing interest to political scholars. This article looks at how political expertise conditions the ideological implications of the authoritarian predisposition. Although theories of authoritarianism imply that it is a constraint mechanism for the uninformed, research on the role of expertise in the formation of ideology suggests otherwise. In line with this, examination of the 2000 and 2004 American National Election Studies revealed that the relation between the authoritarian predisposition and conservatism was stronger among experts; that relations between the authoritarian predisposition and two components of conservatism - opposition to equality and support for traditionalism - were also stronger among experts; and that the tendency for the authoritarian predisposition to be more strongly related to traditionalism than opposition to equality was stronger among experts as well. These findings suggest that the linkage between authoritarianism and ideology is contingent on one's understanding of politics and indicate the need for a more nuanced understanding of what expertise contributes to democratic citizenship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-708
Number of pages23
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


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