New research from Psychological Science explores factors operating in political attitudes that could explain why political ideology and prejudice are often linked.
While most studies have sought (and therefore found) that political conservatism is linked to prejudice toward various stereotyped groups, it is also established that all people select and interpret evidence consistent with their own preexisting attitudes and ideologies - so if it happens that a whole lot more social scientists are liberal or progressive, they find more flaws in libertarians and conservatives.
In a new article, Chambers and colleagues hypothesized that, contrary to what some research might indicate, prejudice is not restricted to a particular political ideology. Rather, the conflicting values of liberals and conservatives give rise to different kinds of prejudice, with each group favoring other social groups that share their values.
In the first study, three diverse groups of participants rated the ideological position and their overall impression of 34 different target groups. Participants' impressions fell in line with their ideology. For example, conservatives expressed more prejudice than liberals against groups that were identified as liberal (e.g., African-Americans, homosexuals), but less prejudice against groups identified as conservative (e.g., Christian fundamentalists, business people).
In the second and third studies, participants were presented with 6 divisive political issues and descriptions of racially diverse target persons for each issue. Neither liberals' nor conservatives' impressions of the target persons were affected by the race of the target, but both were strongly influenced by the target's political attitudes. From these findings the researchers conclude that prejudices commonly linked with ideology are most likely derived from perceived ideological differences and not from other characteristics like racial tolerance or intolerance.
"Ideology and Prejudice: The Role of Value Conflicts" – Forthcoming in Psychological Science