The End of the End of Ideology

Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
American Psychologist (Impact Factor: 6.87). 11/2006; 61(7):651-70. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.7.651
Source: PubMed


The "end of ideology" was declared by social scientists in the aftermath of World War II. They argued that (a) ordinary citizens' political attitudes lack the kind of stability, consistency, and constraint that ideology requires; (b) ideological constructs such as liberalism and conservatism lack motivational potency and behavioral significance; (c) there are no major differences in content (or substance) between liberal and conservative points of view; and (d) there are few important differences in psychological processes (or styles) that underlie liberal versus conservative orientations. The end-of-ideologists were so influential that researchers ignored the topic of ideology for many years. However, current political realities, recent data from the American National Election Studies, and results from an emerging psychological paradigm provide strong grounds for returning to the study of ideology. Studies reveal that there are indeed meaningful political and psychological differences that covary with ideological self-placement. Situational variables--including system threat and mortality salience--and dispositional variables--including openness and conscientiousness--affect the degree to which an individual is drawn to liberal versus conservative leaders, parties, and opinions. A psychological analysis is also useful for understanding the political divide between "red states" and "blue states."

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