Why are people liberal? : a motivated social cognition perspective
Choma, Becky L.
MetadataShow full item record
The present dissertation examined why people adopt or endorse certain political ideologies (i.e., liberal or conservative). According to a motivated social cognition perspective (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003a; Kruglansl<i, 1996), individuals adopt political ideologies to fulfill dispositional and situationally induced needs or motivations. Previous research has found that political conservatism is related to a number of psychological needs (e.g., Jost, Glaser et aI., 2003a). However, there is minimal research examining why individuals adopt political liberalism. By focussing on the political right and not considering the political left, there might be other motivational underpinnings of political orientation that have been overlooked. In four studies, the present dissertation ail)1ed to fill this gap by investigating what chronic and situationally induced needs underlie political orientation, with a focus on political liberalism. Based on psychological the9ries of ideology, research examining political conservatism, and experimental research examining differences between liberals and conservatives, it was proposed that four social-cognitive needs (Need for Inclusiveness, Need for Understanding, Need for Change, and Avoidance of Decisional Commitment) would be associated with liberalism. Moreover, research suggests that the relations between the needs and liberalism might be moderated by political sophistication (e.g., Converse, 1964). University students (Study 1; n == 201) and community adults (Study 2; n == 197) completed questionnaires assessing political liberalism, political sophistication, and individual differences 're~ective of the four proposed needs. As predicted, correlation and hierarchical regression analyses in both Studies 1 and 2 indicated that political liberalism was related to Need for Inclusiveness, Need for Understanding, and Need for Change. 11 Avoidance of Decisional Commitment uniquely predicted political liberalism in Study 2; however, contrary to predictions, it was unrelated to political liberalism in Study 1. Furthermore, some of these relations were moderated by political sophistication, such that among individuals with a greater knowledge of politics, the relation between certain needs and liberalism was positive. To explore the role of situationally induced needs on political liberalism, each of the four proposed needs were manipulated in Study 3. Participants (n == 120) completed one of five scrambled-sentence tasks (one for each need condition and control condition), measures of explicit and implicit political liberalism, political sophistication, and state and trait measures indicative of the four proposed needs. The ~anipulation did not successfully prime participants with the needs. Therefore, a replication of the analyses from Studies 1 and 2 was conducted on the dispositional needs. Results showed that Need for Inclusiveness, Need for Understanding, and Need for Change were linked with greater explicit and implicit political liberalism. Study 4 examined the effect of manipulated Need for Inclusiveness on participants' endorsement ofpolitical liberalism, independent of conservatism. Participants (n == 43) were randomly assigned to a Need for Inclusiveness or control condition, and completed separate measures of political liberalism and conservatism, and political sophistication. Participants in the Need for Inclusiveness condition reported greater liberalism than those in a control condition; this effect was not moderated by political sophistication. Generally, the findings from this dissertation suggest that there might be other needs underlying political ideology, especially political liberalism. Thus, consistent with others' (Jost, Glaser et aI., 2003a), individuals might adopt political liberalism as a way of gratifying certain psychological needs. Implications and future research are discussed.