Politics & Prejudice

Authoritarianism is the personality trait most commonly associated with high levels of prejudice in adults. Defined simply, it is the tendency to follow the wishes of powerful others without thinking critically. Authoritarians have little tolerance for those whom they perceive to be different from themselves in race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political values. Both traditional and contemporary psychologists have characterized authoritarians as politically conservative and averse to progressive thinking. Their high levels of prejudice are an expression of their right-wing political attitudes and their hostility toward those who disagree. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that many liberals (particularly those in academic fields) have adopted a norm of “political correctness” leading them to be prejudiced and hostile in their own right.

With which side do you agree? Is it true that authoritarian intolerance is a hallmark ONLY of political conservatism? Or, do conservatives have a point: Can people who are politically liberal be equally authoritarian, intolerant, and prejudiced?

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