The Contingent, Contextual Nature of the Relationship Between Needs for Security and Certainty and Political Preferences: Evidence and Implications

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Abstract

Research on the dispositional origins of political preferences is flourishing, and the primary conclusion drawn from this work is that stronger needs for security and certainty attract people to a broad-based politically conservative ideology. Though this literature covers much ground, most integrative assessments of it have paid insufficient attention to the presence and implications of contingencies in the relationship between dispositional attributes and political attitudes. In this article, we review research showing that relationships between needs for security and certainty and political preferences vary considerably—sometimes to the point of directional shifts—on the basis of (1) issue domain and (2) contextual factors governing the content and volume of political discourse individuals are exposed to. On the basis of this evidence, we argue that relationships between dispositional attributes and political preferences vary in the extent to which they reflect an organic functional resonance between dispositions and preferences or identity-expressive motivation to adopt a political attitude merely because it is discursively packaged with other need-congruent attitudes. We contend that such a distinction is critical to gaining a realistic understanding of the origins and nature of ideological belief systems, and we consequently recommend an increased focus on issue-based and contextual variation in relationships between dispositions and political preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-48
Number of pages46
JournalPolitical Psychology
Volume39
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Society of Political Psychology

Keywords

  • ideology
  • needs for security and certainty
  • political expertise
  • political preferences

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