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Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries


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A sometimes heated debate between authoritarianism researchers takes place on the issue of authoritarianism on the left. Some researchers argue that authoritarianism is typical for right-wing political orientation while other researchers assert that authoritarianism can also be found at the left side of the political spectrum. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we aim to contribute to the ongoing discussion on left-wing authoritarianism. Using representative samples, the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences is examined in 13 ex-communist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations make clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is definitely not a myth in Eastern European countries. Second, it was aimed to survey whether authoritarian persons in Eastern European countries might be a possible threat for the transition to democracy. Based upon five items it was demonstrated that in general the Eastern European population seems to hold a positive opinion on democracy. However, it becomes also clear that authoritarian persons in the ex-communist countries are significantly less positive towards democracy.
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Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality.
Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries
Sabrina de Regt
, Dimitri Mortelmans
, Tim Smits
University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
article info
Article history:
Available online 8 November 2011
Left-wing authoritarianism
Support for democracy
Eastern Europe
European Values Study
A sometimes heated debate between authoritarianism researchers takes place on the issue
of authoritarianism on the left. Some researchers argue that authoritarianism is typical for
right-wing political orientation while other researchers assert that authoritarianism can
also be found at the left side of the political spectrum. The aim of this paper is twofold.
First, we aim to contribute to the ongoing discussion on left-wing authoritarianism. Using
representative samples, the relationship between authoritarianism and political prefer-
ences is examined in 13 ex-communist Eastern European countries. Employing six
different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations make clear that, despite
cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is denitely not a myth in Eastern
European countries. Second, it was aimed to survey whether authoritarian persons in
Eastern European countries might be a possible threat for the transition to democracy.
Based upon ve items it was demonstrated that in general the Eastern European pop-
ulation seems to hold a positive opinion on democracy. However, it becomes also clear that
authoritarian persons in the ex-communist countries are signicantly less positive towards
Ó2011 The Regents of the University of California. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights
Is authoritarianism typical for ultra-right people like fascists, nationalists and racists? Or can individuals who advocate
equality among people at the same time be authoritarian? This is a central discussion in authoritarianism research. Some
researchers believe in psychological authoritarianism among leftists (Heaven and Connors,1988; McClosky and Chong, 1985;
Ray, 1983), while other authors consider that there is no supportive evidence for similarities in authoritarian personality
between leftists and rightists (Brown, 1965; Tarr and Lorr, 1991). Many authors contributed to the discussion on the existence
of left-wing authoritarianism trough reviewing the literature, giving theoretical reections or by empirical examination
(Funke, 1998; Kohn, 1972; Mullen et al., 20 03; Ray, 1974; Taylor, 1960; Wilson et al., 1976). Conclusions regarding the existence
of left-wing authoritarianism have been based mainly on investigations conducted in Western countries (Farnen, 1994). Even
though several studies did examine the correlation between authoritarianism and political orientation in former communist
countries, Eastern European countries are still underrepresented. In this paper we will analyze samples from 13 Eastern
European countries. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we will examine whether left-wing authoritarianism exists in
those countries. Second, if authoritarianism seems to be positively correlated with left-wing/communist preferences an
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 33rd Annual Scientic Meeting of the ISPP, San Francisco, CA USA, 710 July 2010.
*Corresponding author.
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0967-067X/$ see front matter Ó2011 The Regents of the University of California. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (2011) 299308
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important question is whether authoritarian individuals in Eastern Europe are a threat to the transition to a democratic
political system.
We will use the European Values Study (EVS) to nd an answer to our two research questions. This has several advantages.
First, the same measures will be used across countries. Even though minimal differences in measurement bias might exist,
using the same instrument across countries maximizes valid international comparisons. Second, the time span of our study is
limited because we base our analysis on the third wave of the EVS. Therefore our results will be less biased because of possible
country specic social developments that occur over time. Third, we will use representative samples and therefore the results
might not only be limited to students as is often the case with authoritarianism research (Meloen,1993). Last, we will examine
these issues in a broad range of Eastern European countries. Until now some of those countries have not been studied yet.
Classic studies on Authoritarianism and political orientation. Rigidity of the right
In their search for an explanation for German Nazism Adorno et al. (1950) introduced the concept of The Authoritarian
Personality. They assumed a linear association between conservative and fascistic ideas on the one hand and psychological
irrationality on the other. As expected, their authoritarianism scale (Fscale) correlated positively with ethnocentrism and
political and economic conservatism (Adorno et al., 1950). Also in other studies it is shown that the Fscale correlates positively
with political right-wing preferences and attitudes (Altemeyer, 1981; Farnen, 1994; Kirscht and Dillehay, 1967; Meloen, 1993).
Altemeyer (1981) reconceptualised authoritarianism to Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) specied as the combination
of three attitudinal clusters: (1) authoritarian submission a high degree of submission to the authorities who perceived to be
established and legitimate in the society where one lives (2) authoritarian aggression a general aggressiveness, directed
against various persons, which is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities (3) conventionalism a high degree of
adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities. Also RWA has
proven to go hand in hand with preferences for right-wing political parties, general right-wing political orientation and
specic right-wing beliefs and attitudes in different countries (Altemeyer, 1981; Crowson et al., 2005b; Duckitt, 1993; Feather,
1993; Liu et al., 2008; Van Hiel and Mervielde, 2002).
Left-wing authoritarianism
Shils (1954) was among the rst to suggest the possibility of authoritarianism at the left pole of the political continuum. He
noticed that fascism and Bolshevism had more in common than might be expected at rst glance, for example, their common
hostility towards civil liberties and political democracies, their common antipathy for parliamentary institutions, their
conviction that all forms of power are in a hostile worldconcentrated in a few hands and their own aspirations forconcentrated
and total power (Shils, 1954). The fact that there exist authoritarian left-wing regimes does not imply however that authori-
tarian personality traits are as common among leftists as among rightists at the individual level. Or in other words, you have to
be careful with shifting the level of analysis from a psychological level to a socio-political level (Stone and Smith, 1993).
Also Eysenck (1954) believed that authoritarianism could appear equally well on the left as on the right. He argued that all
attitudes could be represented in terms of two axes: Radicalism vs. Conservatism and Tough-minded vs. Tender-minded. While
fascists and communists differ in radicalism/conservatism they are expected to be the same in tough-mindedness (author-
itarianism). Eysenck and Coulter (1972) concluded that communists and fascists were both more tough-minded compared to
a control group. On the Fscale the fascists scored higher than the communists and the control group, but the communists
scored higher than the control group. Eysencks work has been severely critized, however, resulting in a erce debate
(Christie, 1956a, b; Eysenck, 1956a, b; Hanley and Rokeach, 1956; Rokeach and Hanley, 1956).
Another advocate of the movement away from the conceptualization and measurement of only rightist forms of
authoritarianism is Rokeach (1956, 1960). He stated that a sharp distinction between the structure and the content of ideo-
logical systems is needed. In other words we should not focus upon what people think, but upon how they think. He
developed the dogmatism scale to measure this general authoritarianism. He showed that communists have the lowest score
on the Fscale while they score higher on dogmatism compared to other political groups. The differences on dogmatism
between the communists and the other respondents were not signicant however. Rokeach concluded that the dogmatism
scale is relatively free of political content and because dogmatism is found with approximately equal frequency along all
positions of the political spectrum the dogmatism scale is said to measure general authoritarianism (Rokeach, 1960). His
thesis that dogmatism is unrelated to political ideology and therefore measures general authoritarianism is not supported in
several studies (Barker, 1963; DiRenzo, 1967; Hanson, 1968, 1969, 1970; Knutson, 1974; Smithers and Lobley, 1978) reviewed
by Stone (1980). Dogmatism scores were more associated with right-wing political ideologies. Based upon the reviewed
studies, Stone (1980) concluded that left-wing authoritarianism is a myth because existing evidence suggests that authori-
tarianism is a personality and attitudinal syndrome characteristic of right-wingers alone. He stated that it seems a waste of
time to continue to test a hypothesis with so little support as left-wing authoritarianism. Eysenck (1981) criticized Stones
review of the literature stating that it is not as factual or objective as it might beand that a survey leaving out most of the
evidence supporting the view the author is attacking can hardly be regarded as convincing scientically.
Altemeyer (1996) suggested that thus far researchers did not use the the right stuffconceptually and instrumentally and
developed a new instrument to detect authoritarians living on the left bank of the political spectrum: the left-wing
authoritarianism scale (LWA). He dened LWA as the covaration of the following three attitudinal clusters: (1) authoritarian
S. de Regt et al. / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (2011) 299308300
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submission a high degree of submission to authorities who are dedicated to overthrowing the established authorities in ones
society (2) authoritarian aggression a general aggressiveness directed against the established authorities, or against persons
who are perceived to support those authorities (3) conventionalism a high degree of adherence to the norms of behaviour
perceived to be endorsed by the revolutionary authorities. This scale contains the same attitudes as his RWA scale with the big
difference that now submission to revolutionary authorities that want to overthrow the established authorities is used.
Almost nobody scored above the neutral point of the LWA scale. Therefore Altemeyer concluded that he did not nd a living,
breathing, scientically certiable authoritarian on the leftcalling them cynically Loch Ness Monsters.
With a newly developed LWA scale Van Hiel et al. (2006) found that in two samples of ordinary voters left-wing
authoritarianism was almost absent. In a political activist sample left-wing authoritarianism was found among left-wing
extremists however.
Looking for left-wing authoritarians in societies where the communist ideology has dominated for several decades has
proven to be a fruitful approach. Multiple studies showed that in Hungary, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Yugoslavia author-
itarianism correlates positively with support for: socialist ideology, socialist party preferences, positive feelings for
communists, political left self-placement and communist principles (Enyedi and Todosijevi
c, 2002; Krauss, 2002; McFarland
et al., 1992, 1993, 1996; Pentony et al., 2000; Todosijevi
c, 2005, 2006; Todosijevi
c and Enyedi, 2008a, b).
Conventionalism has always been considered to be a core aspect of authoritarianism. Adorno et al. (1950) stated that the
conventionalists could in good conscience follow the dictates of the external agency wherever they might lead him and,
moreover,he would be capable of totally exchanging one set of standards for another quite different one. Also Altemeyer (1981)
included adherence to conventional norms as a core cluster of authoritarianism. He stated that authoritarians reject the idea
that people should develop their own ideas of what is moral and immoral since these have already been determined by
authorities. An authoritarian rejects the proposition that social customs are arbitrary, and one nations customs can be seen as
good as anothers. Other ways of doing things are considered to be wrong (Altemeyer, 1981). After the Second World War
Eastern Europe adopted communist modes of government until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Eastern European pop-
ulations have been socialized into ofcial communist ideology for four decades. Following the denition of authoritarianism,
provided by Adorno et al. (1950),aswellasAltemeyer (1981), we would expect authoritarian people in those countries to
adhere to communist principles because right-wing political ideas have been largely absent for a quite long period.
Secondly, we will examine whether authoritarian people themselves in Eastern European countries can be a threat to the
transition democracy. Altemeyer (1988) saw in authoritarian people a threat to freedom. The list of fearful consequences of
authoritarianism is long. Among others, authoritarians are more likely to accept unfair and illegal abuses of power by
government authorities; more likely to trust leaders who are untrustworthy; more likely to weaken constitutional guarantees
of liberties; more likely to go easy on authorities who commit crimes and people who attack minorities; more likely to
volunteer to help the government persecute almost everyone; and are more likely to seek dominance over others by being
competitive and destructive in situations requiring cooperation (Altemeyer, 1996). Based on the above list of correlates of
authoritarianism we expect Eastern European authoritarians to be a potential threat for the transition to a democratic
political system. Some supportive evidence for this hypothesis is available from Eastern European countries. McFarland et al.
(1993) nd for example that both in North America and in the Soviet Union authoritarianism has been nondemocratic in the
sense that authoritarian persons have been more prone to censure dissent and deny to out-groups full participation in the
society. Also in another study in Russia it is shown thatauthoritarianism is negatively related to support of economic, political
and intellectual freedoms and of democratic parties and organisations (McFarland et al., 1996). Krauss (2002) nds in
Romania that correlations between authoritarianism and communism/anti-capitalism are high and positive; that authori-
tarianism was related to decreased support of forming alliances with the West and that authoritarianism was related to
a decreased appreciation of the freedom that the revolution has brought with it. In this study we will examine the evaluation
of democracy by authoritarians in 13 Eastern European countries by using the EVS which will be described below.
Data and measurements
The European Values Study (EVS) is a large-scale, cross-national survey research program on basic human values. It
provides insight into the ideas, beliefs, preferences, attitudes, values and opinions of citizens all over Europe. It is a unique
research project on how Europeans think about life, family, work, religion, politics and society. For more information
regarding translations of the questionnaire, sampling procedures, weighting and other important aspects of the EVS, see
Inglehart et al. (2004) and In this article, we will use the third wave of the EVS. In 14 Eastern
European countries face-to-face interviews were conducted with representative samples of adults aged 18 years and older. No
upper age limit was imposed. Croatia had to be excluded from the analyses because of missing values on one of the
authoritarianism items (whether obedience is an important quality that the children should learn at home). We used the
Expectation-Maximization algorithm (Schafer, 1997) to impute missing values within a scale. In total, we analyze data from
15,524 persons. The specic sample sizes for the countries are displayed in Appendix A.
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Altemeyers Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) scale is seen as the best current measure of the essence of what the
authors of the authoritarian personality (TAP) were attempting to measure (Christie, 1991). Therefore we based our EVS
authoritarianism scale on the three covariations of the RWA scale. Conventionalism is the rst attitudinal cluster of the RWA
scale. To measure this, we make use of items about whether respondents think that homosexuality, abortion, having casual
sex, divorce and euthanasia are justied. The other aspects of authoritarianism are a high degree of submission to the
established authorities and high levels of aggression in the name of these authorities. We use questions about unconditional
love and respect for parents, need for having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections,
greater respect for authority in the future and whether obedience is an important quality children should learn at home to
measure this component of authoritarianism. We did not use EVS items with special reference to religion to maximize the
cross-national comparability. There exists a great variation between countries in number of persons who consider themselves
religious (for example only 26 percent in Belarus, while more than 90 percent in Poland (own calculations EVS)). Also, only
questions were used that were asked in (almost) all countries to maximize the inclusion of countries. Therefore, some
interesting questions like would you be willing to ght for your countryand should books and lms that attack religions be
prohibited by law or should they be allowedcould not be included in this authoritarianism measurement.
The EVS authoritarianism scale has been validated elsewhere (de Regt et al., 2010). The EVS scale correlates substantially
with the RWA (0.66) and the Fscale (0.50), has a higher internal consistency compared to the RWA and the Fscale and the
predictive power of the EVS scale is comparable to that of the two other authoritarianism scales. Furthermore, the EVS
authoritarianism scale is a measurement unit equivalent (Rock et al., 1978) indicating that we can meaningfully compare the
effects of authoritarianism between countries. In Appendix A the country specic alphas and some goodness of t statistics of
conrmatory factor analysis are displayed.
Left-wing political preferences
Six indicators are used to measure left-wing/communist political preferences. First, we examine political self-positioning
In political matters, people talk of the leftand the right.How would you place your views on this scale, generally speaking?
1¼Leftto 10 ¼Righ’’. The second indicator of left-wing/communist political preferences is how people evaluate the political
system as it was under communist regime People have different views about the system for governing this country. Here is a scale
for rating how well things are going: 1 means very bad; 10 means very good. Where on this scale would you put the political system
as it was under communist regime?. Furthermore, four attitudinal questions were used to measure communist political
preferences. Two concern the role of the state. One about individual responsibility vs. government responsibility People
should take more responsibility to provide for themselves (1) vs. The government should take more responsibility to ensure that
everyone is provided for (10)and the other indicates whether people prefer free-market economy or a centralized economy
The state should give more freedom to rms (1) vs. The state should control rms more effectively (10). The last two attitudes
concern the communist principle of equality: the importance of eliminating big income inequalities In order to be considered
just, what a society should provide? Eliminating big inequalities in income between citizens (1 ¼Not at all importantto 5 ¼Very
important)and the importance of guaranteeing basic needs for all In order to be considered just, what should a society
provide? Guaranteeing that basic needs are met for all, in terms of food, housing, cloths, education, health (1 ¼Not at all important
to 5 ¼Very important). In Ukraine only four answer categories were provided for the two equality questions (1 ¼Not at all
importantto 4 ¼Very important).
Evaluation of democracy
In order to examine whether authoritarianpeople in Eastern Europe are a potential threat to the transition to a democracy
ve indicators were used concerning the evaluation of a democratic political system. First it is asked whether people think that
a democratic political system in general is a good wayof governing their country: Im going to describe various types of political
systems and ask you what you think about each as a way of governing this country. For each one, would you say it is very good (1),
fairly good (2), fairly bad (3) or very bad way (4) of governing this country?dto have a democratic political system. Furthermore,
some more specic questions regarding the evaluation of a democratic systemwere used Im going to read off some things that
people sometimes say about a democratic political system. Could you please tell me if you agree strongly (1), agree (2), disagree (3) or
disagree strongly (4)? (1) In democracy, the economic system runs badly; (2) Democracies are indecisive and have too much
quibbling; (3) Democracies arent good at maintaining order; and (4) Democracy may have problems but its better than any other
form of government. All variables are recoded so that a higher score indicates a negative evaluation of democracy.
Descriptive results
In Table 1 we see that in all countries the average political self-positioning is around the mid-point of the scale with the
exception of Russia. In Russia the population places itself on average more on the left compared to the population in other
Eastern European countries. The average rating of the political system as it was under the communist regime is in all countries
S. de Regt et al. / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (2011) 299308302
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below the neutral scale point of 5.5, indicating that in general people hold negative views about the communist regime. Again
the only exception is Russia. In Russia the average is slightly above the neutral point indicating a more positive view of the
communist system of governing. Even though people in Eastern Europe seem not to be positive about the communist regime
they do tend to agree with the communist principles. The overall average for the 13 Eastern European countries of all four
attitudinal questions is above the neutral point (indicating a pro-communist attitude). There exists some cross-national
variation however. Regarding the role of the state we can see in Table 1 that the average in some countries is below the
neutral point. In some countries people think on average that individuals should take more responsibility to provide for
themselves instead of the government (for example Lithuania) and that the state should give rms more freedom instead of
controlling them effectively (for example Czech and Romania). Without exception, the mean of the equalityindicators is above
the neutral point in all Eastern European countries showing a strong adherence to the communist principles of equality in those
In Table 2, the means of the democracy evaluation variables are displayed. On average the population of Eastern Europe
thinks that having a democratic political system as a way of governing their country is very goodor fairly good. Regarding the
statement that in democracy the economic system runs badly, the Eastern European population on average holds more
neutral views. The same seems to be true for the statements that democracies are indecisive and that democracies are not
good at maintaining order. Also the last variable in Table 2 indicates that in general people in the ex-communist countries
hold positive views regarding democracy. Again only in Russia people are on average somewhat less positive compared to the
population of other Eastern European countries, but also in Russia the population holds on average a positive view of
democracy as a form of government.
Does left-wing authoritarianism exists?
In Table 3 the results of the regression analyses of authoritarianism on left-wing/communist political orientation in 13
Central and Eastern European countries are displayed. Because we compare the effects across countries, unstandardized
coefcients are reported instead of standardized regression coefcients (Tacq, 1997). If we examine the effect of authori-
tarianism on political self-positioning we see that there exists quite some variation in the Eastern European region. In some
countries authoritarianism enhances political right self-positioning, for example, in Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, while in
other countries authoritarian individuals place themselves on the political left, like in Bulgaria, Belarus and Russia. In some
countries the average effect of authoritarianism on political self-placement is found to be non-signicant, for example, in the
Baltic States. A quadratic effect was included in order to detect possible curvilinear relations. The quadratic effects of
authoritarianism on political self-positioning were nevertheless small and non-signicant and are therefore not displayed in
the table.
If we look at the correlates of authoritarianism with the rating of the communist regime we see that in most countries
authoritarianism enhances positive evaluations of the communist regime. Only in Hungary and Slovenia authoritarian people
do not hold positive (or negative) views of the former communist regimes. Also in Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia the effects
are small and can be considered non-signicant given the relatively large sample sizes.
If we consider the role of the state, we see (Table 3) that in almost all Central and Eastern European countries authoritarian
people seem to want high levels of state control and intervention. Only in Latvia, Poland, Hungary and Lithuania the effect of
authoritarianism on government responsibility (vs. individual responsibility) is weaker or non-signicant. If we look at the
relationship between authoritarianism and the communist principles of equality we see that in all countries authoritarian
people think that it is important to eliminate big inequalities in income between citizens. The relationship between
Table 1
Means and standard deviations indicators left-wing/communist preferences.
nPolitical left
Rate communist
political system
Firms and
Importance eliminating
big income inequalities
basic needs for
all (15)
Bulgaria 973 5.66 (2.12) 4.75 (2.84) 5.46 (3.09) 5.27 (2.84) 3.92 (1.22) 4.58 (0.77)
Belarus 960 5.46 (1.54) 5.26 (2.48) 4.97 (2.95) 5.66 (2.94) 3.66 (1.31) 4.77 (0.55)
Czech 1823 5.93 (2.23) 3.61 (2.38) 6.01 (2.68) 4.90 (2.58) 3.62 (1.20) 4.27 (0.94)
Estonia 920 5.76 (1.49) 4.44 (2.30) 6.15 (2.62) 6.11 (2.39) 3.82 (1.11) 4.47 (0.84)
Hungary 979 5.12 (1.55) 5.42 (2.18) 6.61 (2.67) 6.12 (2.81) 4.34 (0.81) 4.73 (0.50)
Latvia 950 5.72 (1.66) 4.34 (2.34) 7.34 (2.64) 6.67 (2.66) 4.35 (0.97) 4.76 (0.62)
Lithuania 965 5.24 (1.89) 5.28 (2.79) 4.80 (2.82) 5.39 (2.83) 3.94 (1.19) 4.70 (0.63)
Poland 1063 5.32 (2.07) 4.46 (2.56) 6.60 (2.97) 5.78 (2.59) 4.18 (1.01) 4.67 (0.74)
Romania 1109 5.57 (1.81) 4.57 (2.96) 6.20 (3.33) 4.87 (3.18) 4.18 (0.91) 4.57 (0.61)
Russia 2423 4.85 (1.79) 5.72 (2.58) 6.10 (2.94) 5.73 (2.89) 3.68 (1.27) 4.68 (0.66)
Slovakia 1259 5.11 (1.88) 5.25 (2.49) 7.08 (2.53) 6.42 (2.58) 4.37 (0.86) 4.75 (0.53)
Slovenia 955 5.09 (1.59) 4.69 (2.28) 5.60 (3.05) 6.52 (2.66) 3.99 (1.12) 4.65 (0.65)
Ukraine 1145 5.34 (1.98) 4.96 (2.72) 5.47 (3.18) 6.06 (2.99) 3.08 (1.00) 3.84 (0.45)
Total 15 524 5.37 (1.89) 4.85 (2.62) 6.05 (2.97) 5.75 (2.83) 3.96 (1.10)
4.62 (0.68)
All country differences are signicant F-test, p<0.001.
Four instead of 5 answer categories.
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Guaranteeing that basic needs are met for all, in terms of food, housing, cloths, education, healthand authoritarianism is less
strong and non-signicant in the Baltic States, Slovenia and Hungary. In the latter the effect is even positive, though not
signicantly, which might indicate a trend that authoritarian people in this country come to like instead of dislike inequality,
more like we witness in Western European countries.
There are some small differences in the conclusion you might draw regarding left-wing authoritarianism in the individual
countries depending on which variables you use. In Appendix B the countries are ranked for each of the six variables and
anal country ranking is also displayed. It is shown that especially in Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia, Romania, and Ukraine
authoritarianism is linked with left-wing/communist preferences. On the other hand this relation is less strong (and
sometimes non-signicant or even reversed) in countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland and the Baltic States.
Are Eastern European authoritarians a possible threat to transition to democracy?
If we look at the relationships between authoritarianism and the evaluation of the democratic political system in Table 4
we see that there is less variance between countries than we found earlier in the association between authoritarianism and
left-wing/communist preferences. We see that in all countries authoritarianism is positively related to the democracy vari-
ables. This indicates that in all Central and Eastern European countries authoritarian people hold negative views about
democracy. In all those ex-communist countries authoritarian oriented people believe that having a democratic political
system is bad, that in democracy the economic system runs badly, that democracies are indecisive and have too much
quibbling, that democracies are not good at maintaining order and that democracy is worse if compared to any other form of
government. Especially in Romania this relation seems to be strong. Sometimes the association between authoritarianism and
the evaluation of democracy is less strong in the Baltic States, Hungary and Ukraine, but in general it can be stated that
authoritarian persons in the studied ex-communist countries hold negative views about the democratic political system.
Table 2
Means and standard deviations democracy variables.
Having democratic
political system is bad
In democracy the
economic system
runs badly
Democracies are
indecisive and have
too much quibbling
Democracies are
not good at
maintaining order
Democracy worse
than any other form
of government
Bulgaria 1.80 (0.73) 2.39 (0.75) 2.48 (0.76) 2.34 (0.77) 1.83 (0.75)
Belarus 1.82 (0.63) 2.29 (0.66) 2.44 (0.72) 2.40 (0.76) 1.85 (0.63)
Czech 1.65 (0.66) 2.36 (0.62) 2.54 (0.68) 2.57 (0.67) 1.69 (0.62)
Estonia 2.00 (0.56) 2.33 (0.56) 2.49 (0.67) 2.31 (0.62) 1.92 (0.52)
Hungary 1.83 (0.71) 2.37 (0.75) 2.72 (0.78) 2.39 (0.77) 1.97 (0.70)
Latvia 1.97 (0.58) 2.50 (0.58) 2.76 (0.60) 2.45 (0.62) 1.91 (0.57)
Lithuania 1.97 (0.63) 2.48 (0.62) 2.74 (0.67) 2.59 (0.63) 1.99 (0.60)
Poland 1.98 (0.66) 2.51 (0.68) 2.97 (0.70) 2.82 (0.76) 1.91 (0.58)
Romania 1.82 (0.73) 2.60 (0.86) 2.91 (0.83) 2.51 (0.90) 1.96 (0.82)
Russia 2.34 (0.67) 2.62 (0.67) 2.89 (0.72) 2.77 (0.70) 2.29 (0.67)
Slovakia 1.91 (0.76) 2.50 (0.79) 2.63 (0.80) 2.40 (0.87) 1.89 (0.72)
Slovenia 1.74 (0.71) 2.49 (0.71) 2.81 (0.72) 2.46 (0.76) 1.87 (0.59)
Ukraine 2.01 (0.64) 2.40 (0.62) 2.62 (0.70) 2.53 (0.67) 1.99 (0.62)
Totaal 1.94 (0.70) 2.46 (0.69) 2.71 (0.74) 2.53 (0.75) 1.95 (0.68)
All country differences are signicant F-test, p<0.001.
All variables have a 14 answer scale.
Table 3
Unstandardized regression coefcients and (std. errors) of authoritarianism on left-wing/communist political orientation.
Political left
Rate communist
political system
State should
controle rms
eliminating big
income inequalities
basic needs for all
Bulgaria 0.032*** (0.005) 0.028*** (0.007) 0.040*** (0.007) 0.029*** (0.008) 0.023*** (0.003) 0.009*** (0.002)
Belarus 0.019*** (0.004) 0.029*** (0.006) 0.032*** (0.007) 0.060*** (0.007) 0.031*** (0.003) 0.003*(0.001)
Czech 0.016*** (0.004) 0.032*** (0.004) 0.022*** (0.004) 0.021*** (0.004) 0.022*** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.002)
Estonia 0.005 (0.004) 0.027*** (0.006) 0.029*** (0.006) 0.044*** (0.006) 0.012*** (0.003) 0.005*(0.002)
Hungary 0.009** (0.004) 0.006 (0.005) 0.013*(0.007) 0.011 (0.006) 0.008*** (0.002) 0.001 (0.001)
Latvia 0.004 (0.004) 0.013*(0.006) 0.021** (0.007) 0.023** (0.007) 0.013*** (0.003) 0.003 (0.002)
Lithuania 0.009 (0.005) 0.016*(0.007) 0.001 (0.007) 0.023** (0.007) 0.008** (0.003) 0.001 (0.002)
Poland 0.018*** (0.004) 0.032*** (0.005) 0.017** (0.006) 0.026*** (0.006) 0.017*** (0.002) 0.005** (0.002)
Romania 0.015*** (0.004) 0.078*** (0.007) 0.031*** (0.007) 0.073*** (0.008) 0.011*** (0.002) 0.004** (0.001)
Russia 0.018*** (0.003) 0.050*** (0.004) 0.022*** (0.005) 0.034*** (0.005) 0.017*** (0.002) 0.005*** (0.001)
Slovakia 0.009** (0.003) 0.010*(0.005) 0.028*** (0.005) 0.024*** (0.005) 0.014*** (0.002) 0.004*** (0.001)
Slovenia 0.019*** (0.003) 0.004 (0.004) 0.018*** (0.005) 0.022*** (0.006) 0.020*** (0.002) 0.001 (0.001)
Ukraine 0.008 (0.005) 0.030*** (0.006) 0.032*** (0.007) 0.051*** (0.007) 0.020*** (0.002) 0.003** (0.001)
***p<0.001; **p<0.01; *p<0.05.
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Discussion and conclusion
The aim of this article was twofold. First we aimed to contribute to the ongoing discussion on left-wing authoritarianism.
Using representative samples the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences was examined in 13 ex-
communist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations
made clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is denitely not a myth in Eastern Europe.
Secondly, it was aimed to survey whether authoritarian individuals in Eastern European countries might be a possible threat
to transition to democratic political systems. It was demonstrated that in general the Eastern European population seems to
hold a positive opinion on democracy. It becomes also clear however that the authoritarian persons in the ex-communist
countries do not hold a positive perspective on the democratic political system.
Interesting is also the intra-regional variation regarding the relation between authoritarianism and political ideology. In
Bulgaria and Russia, for example, authoritarianism is consequently linked with communist/political left-wing preferences
regardless of which indicator is used; while in a country like Hungary almost no evidence was found for left-wing author-
itarianism. This is in line with Todosijevi
c and Enyedis (2008a) conclusion that leftist authoritarians do exist in Hungary, but
they are few and their presence is overshadowed by the authoritarianism of the anticommunist right. Also Enyedi et al. (1997)
conclude that the phenomenon of left-wing authoritarianism, though present in Hungary, is less signicant than its rightist
counterpart. Schwartz and Bardi (1997) theorized that the level of communist penetration might explain those differences
between countries within Eastern Europe. In Hungary, for example, until 1989 Soviet features characterized the political
system, but in everyday life citizens were given considerable autonomy, and private moral was characterized by individualism
and consumerism (Enyedi and Todosijevi
c, 2002). Those ndings make clear that we should not underestimate and ignore the
intra-regional differences in Eastern Europe. It might be clear that ndings from one Eastern Europe country should not be
generalized too incautiously and applied to other Eastern European countries and that studying multiple countries might be
essential to gain a deeper understanding of the correlates of authoritarianism is this region.
Public support is of course an essential ingredient for a successful transition to a capitalistic and democratic political
system. In this article, it is shown that authoritarians in Central and Eastern European countries embrace communist prin-
ciples and that they hold negative attitudes towards democracy. Therefore authoritarian persons in those countries might be
a threat to transition to a democratic system. The Freedom House publishes annually an assessment of global political rights
and civil liberties in the world. By the year when the EVS survey was held, the Freedom House rated 21 percent of the countries
in Central and Eastern Europe as not free and 41 percent of the countries was rated as partly free (
This paper makes clear that authoritarianism should not be discarded as a factor that can endanger the transition to
democracy. A deeper understanding of the antecedents and consequences of authoritarianism in the Central and Eastern
European region seems therefore necessary.
All results presented in this paper are on the country level. This gives interesting information about general tendencies at
the macro level and differences among the countries. It might also cover possible important differences at the individual level.
There might be, for example, interesting age differences that are not exposed by the analyses at the country level. It can be
expected that authoritarian persons in the generation that is socialized (mainly) after the fall of the Berlin Wall will not
embrace communist principles while authoritarian persons that are socialized during communism do support those prin-
ciples. Another example might be the difference between the winnersand the losersof the transition. Research showed that
the outcome of the transition process is not equally distributed among all socio-economic groups. The young, well-educated,
high-wage earners and workers employed in private rms can be considered to be the winners of the transitionprocess while
the elderly, low-skilled and low-wage workers and the unemployed are the losers of this process (Doyle and Fidrmuc, 2003).
In future studies age and socio-economic characteristics are, among others, interesting features at the individual level to
examine who is authoritarian and left-wing in a left-wing authoritarian society.
Table 4
Unstandardized regression coefcients and (std. errors) of authoritarianism on evaluation democracy.
Having a democratic
political system is bad
In democracy the
economic system
runs badly
Democracies are
indecisive and have
too much quibbling
Democracies arent
good at maintaining
Democracy is worse
than any other form of
Bulgaria 0.007*** (0.002) 0.010*** (0.002) 0.009*** (0.002) 0.012*** (0.002) 0.006*** (0.002)
Belarus 0.009*** (0.001) 0.012*** (0.002) 0.011*** (0.002) 0.012*** (0.002) 0.009*** (0.001)
Czech 0.008*** (0.001) 0.007*** (0.001) 0.007*** (0.001) 0.007*** (0.001) 0.005*** (0.001)
Estonia 0.007*** (0.001) 0.005*** (0.001) 0.004*(0.002) 0.005** (0.002) 0.004** (0.001)
Hungary 0.004** (0.002) 0.013*** (0.002) 0.005** (0.002) 0.009*** (0.002) 0.008*** (0.002)
Latvia 0.006*** (0.002) 0.008*** (0.001) 0.005** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.002) 0.004** (0.001)
Lithuania 0.005** (0.002) 0.006*** (0.002) 0.005** (0.002) 0.005** (0.002) 0.006*** (0.002)
Poland 0.006*** (0.001) 0.009*** (0.001) 0.006*** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.001)
Romania 0.014*** (0.002) 0.016*** (0.002) 0.012*** (0.002) 0.018*** (0.002) 0.015*** (0.002)
Russia 0.009*** (0.001) 0.011*** (0.001) 0.011*** (0.001) 0.009*** (0.001) 0.009*** (0.001)
Slovakia 0.009*** (0.001) 0.008*** (0.001) 0.008*** (0.001) 0.011*** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.001)
Slovenia 0.009*** (0.001) 0.012*** (0.001) 0.011*** (0.001) 0.010*** (0.002) 0.007*** (0.001)
Ukraine 0.005** (0.001) 0.009*** (0.001) 0.005*** (0.002) 0.004** (0.002) 0.004*(0.001)
***p<0.001, **p<0.01, *p<0.05.
S. de Regt et al. / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (2011) 299308 305
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Given that conventionalism is seen as a central aspect of authoritarianism, it is a natural consequence that in ex-
communist countriesauthoritarian persons support communist principles. This brings us back to the continuing debate
how distinct authoritarianism is from conservatism. Some argue that the Fscale is indistinguishable from a measure of
conservatism (Ray, 1973) and that Altemeyers authoritarianism scale is also just another conservatism scale (Ray, 1985). Also
Van Hiel et al. (2007) report serious problems of content overlap between, among others, the RWA scale and conservatism.
Other authors argue that though authoritarianism and conservatism may be related, theyare different constructs. While most
authoritarian persons are conservative, this does not necessarily imply that most conservatives are authoritarian (Altemeyer,
1996). Also Stenner (2005) concluded that authoritarianism and political conservatism are distinct inclinations and results
reported by Crowson et al. (2005a) indicate as well that conservatism is not synonymous with authoritarianism.
The existence of left-wing authoritarianism has been debated for about six decades. Many authors believed that
authoritarianism is essentially a right-wing phenomenon. Most of the evidence comes from studies conducted in Western
countries; while the members of the American Communist Part have always been treated as highly deviant (Krugman, 1952).
Also Altemeyer (1981) described radical leftists in countries like Canada and the United States as not submissive to estab-
lished authorities and not conventional. Therefore we believe that the fact that thus far not a lot of evidence is found for left-
wing authoritarianism is not due to nonexistence of left-wing authoritarianism, but is due to the fact that we have not looked
at the right places. This emphasizes again the importance of testing the generalisation of earlier research results and theo-
retical frameworks in a broad range of socio-political contexts. We believe this article showed that in Eastern Europe left-wing
authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality.
This study was funded by an interdisciplnary research grant (BOF) provided by the University of Antwerp. The sponsor had
no role in design and conduct of the study
Appendix A. Country specic samples sizes, authoritarianism alphas and goodness of t statistics conrmatory
factor analysis.
nAlpha df
Bulgaria 973 0.73 27 89.34 0.049 0.96
Belarus 960 0.69 27 117.60 0.059 0.92
Czech 1823 0.70 27 146.18 0.049 0.96
Estonia 920 0.73 27 81.58 0.047 0.97
Hungary 979 0.70 27 69.61 0.040 0.97
Latvia 950 0.65 27 37.62 0.020 0.99
Lithuania 965 0.69 27 71.80 0.041 0.96
Poland 1063 0.76 27 71.41 0.050 0.96
Romania 1109 0.67 27 107.81 0.052 0.95
Russia 2423 0.61 27 158.22 0.045 0.93
Slovakia 1259 0.76 27 117.33 0.052 0.97
Slovenia 955 0.73 27 104.75 0.055 0.96
Ukraine 1145 0.70 27 99.22 0.048 0.96
Estimation method: WLS; RMSEA, Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (Steiger and Lind, 1980); RMSEA <0.05, good t; 0.05 <RMSEA >0.08,
reasonable t(Browne and Cudeck, 1993); CFI, Comparative Fit Index (Bentler, 1990); CFI >0.90, good t.
Appendix B. Rank countries on left-wing authoritarianism.
Political left self-positioning Rate communist political system
Country B s.e Country B s.e
Bulgaria 0.032*** (0.005) Romania 0.078*** (0.007)
Belarus 0.019*** (0.004) Russia 0.050*** (0.004)
Russia 0.018*** (0.003) Czech 0.032*** (0.004)
Czech 0.016*** (0.004) Poland 0.032*** (0.005)
Romania 0.015*** (0.004) Ukraine 0.030*** (0.006)
Ukraine 0.008 (0.005) Belarus 0.029*** (0.006)
Estonia 0.005 (0.004) Bulgaria 0.028*** (0.007)
Latvia 0.004 (0.004) Estonia 0.027*** (0.006)
Lithuania 0.009 (0.005) Lithuania 0.016* (0.007)
Hungary 0.009** (0.004) Latvia 0.013* (0.006)
Slovakia 0.009** (0.003) Slovakia 0.010* (0.005)
Poland 0.018*** (0.004) Hungary 0.006 (0.005)
Slovenia 0.019*** (0.003) Slovenia 0.004 (0.004)
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Appendix B. (continued)
Government responsibility State should control rms
Country B s.e Country B s.e
Bulgaria 0.040*** (0.007) Romania 0.073*** (0.008)
Belarus 0.032*** (0.007) Belarus 0.060*** (0.007)
Ukraine 0.032*** (0.007) Ukraine 0.051*** (0.007)
Romania 0.031*** (0.007) Estonia 0.044*** (0.006)
Estonia 0.029*** (0.006) Russia 0.034*** (0.005)
Slovakia 0.028*** (0.005) Bulgaria 0.029*** (0.008)
Russia 0.022*** (0.005) Poland 0.026*** (0.006)
Czech 0.022*** (0.004) Slovakia 0.024*** (0.005)
Latvia 0.021** (0.007) Lithuania 0.023*** (0.007)
Slovenia 0.018*** (0.005) Latvia 0.023*** (0.007)
Poland 0.017** (0.006) Slovenia 0.022*** (0.006)
Hungary 0.013* (0.007) Czech 0.021*** (0.004)
Lithuania 0.001 (0.007) Hungary 0.021*** (0.006)
Importance eliminating big income inequalities Importance guaranteeing basic needs for all
Country B s.e Country B s.e
Belarus 0.031*** (0.003) Bulgaria 0.009*** (0.002)
Bulgaria 0.023*** (0.003) Czech 0.007*** (0.002)
Czech 0.022*** (0.002) Russia 0.005*** (0.001)
Slovenia 0.020*** (0.002) Poland 0.005** (0.002)
Ukraine 0.020*** (0.002) Estonia 0.005* (0.002)
Russia 0.017*** (0.002) Slovakia 0.004*** (0.001)
Poland 0.017*** (0.002) Romania 0.004** (0.001)
Slovakia 0.014*** (0.002) Ukraine 0.003** (0.001)
Latvia 0.013*** (0.003) Belarus 0.003* (0.001)
Estonia 0.013*** (0.003) Latvia 0.003 (0.002)
Romania 0.011*** (0.002) Lithuania 0.001 (0.002)
Hungary 0.008*** (0.003) Slovenia 0.001 (0.001)
Lithuania 0.008** (0.003) Hungary 0.001 (0.001)
Country Rank
Bulgaria 1
Belarus 2
Russia 3
Romania 4
Ukraine 5
Czech 6
Estonia 7
Poland 8
Slovakia 9
Latvia 10
Slovenia 11
Lithuania 12
Hungary 13
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S. de Regt et al. / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (2011) 299308308
... Historically, many researchers have argued for the possibility of left-wing authoritarianism (e.g., Eysenck, 1954;Mullen et al., 2003;Ray, 1983;Rokeach, 1960;Shils, 1954), and burgeoning evidence spanning multiple nations and three continents validates many of these conceptual arguments Conway & McFarland, 2019;Conway et al., in press;Costello et al., 2020a;Conway et al., 2020b;De Regt, Mortelmans, & Smits, 2011;Fasce & Avendaño, 2020;Federico et al., 2017;McFarland et al., 1992McFarland et al., , 1993McFarland et al., , 1996Pentony et al., 2000;Todosijević, 2005;Todosijević & Enyedi, 2008;Van Hiel et al., 2006;Wronski et al., 2018). This evidence for LWA can be roughly grouped into two source types. ...
... (A corollary is that in Soviet Russia, leftist communist leaders were less integratively complex than capitalistic reformers, who had a more conservative ideology; Tetlock & Boettger, 1989). Work in other left-wing contexts provides similar conclusions: RWA Authoritarian Submission is positively associated with more traditionally liberal platforms such as pro-environmental attitudes in Germany (Reese, 2012), and the RWA scale is associated with the prohibition of hate speech towards minorities in Poland (Bilewicz et al., 2017). 1 Similarly, in a survey of 13 Eastern European nations that used a measure of right-wing authoritarianism (a scale that included many of the issues on Altemeyer's scale and questions containing parenting submission motivations), researchers found that in many nations, RWA was correlated with left-wing ideological positions such as communism (De Regt, Mortelmans, & Smits, 2011). Even in a Hungarian sample in which RWA was 1 Authoritarianism, as traditionally measured, has been largely associated with normatively negative behaviors such as prejudice and violence. ...
... The ideology of communisman inherently left-wing ideological systemhas long had an authoritarian bent (see, e.g., Bilewicz et al., 2017;De Regt, Mortelmans, & Smits, 2011;Jost et al., 2003;McFarland et al., 1992McFarland et al., , 1993McFarland et al., , 1996Reese, 2012;Todosijević & Enyedi, 2008). ...
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Left‐wing authoritarianism (LWA) has a controversial history in psychology. Some researchers have expressed skepticism about the existence of LWA, whereas others have argued that LWA is a valid construct. In the present article, we offer a framework to reconcile these two perspectives by proposing that ideologically based authoritarian norms are sometimes in conflict with the processes that create authoritarian individuals. In Western political contexts, authoritarian norms are more likely to occur on the conservative side of the political spectrum; but authoritarian attributes can occur in both conservatives and liberals. In our model, left‐wing authoritarians thus often occupy the space where forces influencing authoritarianism are in conflict. We review existing evidence related to the model, present novel evidence related to the model, derive four hypotheses from the model, and discuss criteria for falsifying the model. We conclude by considering the model's place in current research on the complexities of ideology.
... The propensity towards authoritarianism has traditionally been linked to right-wing ideology and operationalized in terms of ideological commitment to tradition, authority, and social convention against threats of change, protest, and political rebellion [24,25,26]. However, members of left-wing groups, especially those who label themselves as communist, can also show authoritarian traits [27]. While overtly the extreme right-and left-wing groups differ in significant ways, such as in their attitudes towards the existing social order vs. liberation of oppressed groups, they also show important similarities, including estrangement from the government, intolerance of ambiguity, intolerance towards political opponents, attraction to totalitarian measures and tactics, intolerance of human frailty, and paranoid tendencies -including a belief in conspiracy and feelings of persecution [28,29]. ...
... The extreme-right site, Breitbart, shows particularly strong inequality of influence measured as skewness of in-degrees and Page Ranks, although only among the top 1% of commenters (Figure 2 vs. Figure A10). These findings are in line with the past evidence about the heightened deference to authorities among radical proponents on both sides [23,27], but also provide some support to the theoretical perspectives linking authoritarianism with right-wing political extremity [26]. ...
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Collectives adapt their network structure to the challenges they face. It has been hypothesized that collectives experiencing a real or imagined threat from an outgroup tend to consolidate behind a few influential group members, and that network structures in which a few members have a very strong influence are more likely in politically extreme groups. These hypotheses have not been tested in large-scale real-world settings. We reconstruct networks of tens of thousands of commenters participating in comment sections of high-profile U.S. political news websites spanning the political spectrum from left to right, including Mother Jones, The Atlantic, The Hill, and Breitbart. We investigate the relationship between different indices of inequality of influence in commenters' networks and perceived group threat associated with significant societal events, from elections and political rallies to mass shootings. Our findings support the hypotheses that groups facing a real or imagined outgroup threat and groups that are more politically extreme are more likely to include disproportionately influential commenters. These results provide an extensive real-world test of theoretical accounts of collective adaptation to outgroup threats.
... In turn, economic egalitarianism was higher among the left in both regions, while social egalitarianism was higher among the left in Western Europe only (Hadarics, 2017). The European Values Study showed that the population in Russia placed itself on average more on the left and had a more positive view of the communist system of governing compared to the population in other Eastern European countries (de Regt et al., 2011). ...
... Also, variables associated with the Soviet legacy were closely related to the RWA constellation. Earlier studies in Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Yugoslavia, and Russia showed that authoritarianism was positively associated with support for socialist ideology, socialist party preferences, positive feelings for communists, political left selfplacement, and communist principles (de Regt et al., 2011). This supports the idea that RWA is related to norms and beliefs, which are historically rooted in a specific society. ...
The study of authoritarianism has a long history in the field of psychology; however, much of this research focuses on Western countries, especially the United States. In effort to better understand authoritarianism cross-culturally, we explore the current state of authoritarianism in an important cultural context: Russia. Thus, the current paper explores large-scale research of right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation in the modern Russian context. Six studies (total N = 1358) included personality traits, basic human values, social beliefs, and intergroup attitudes that allowed us to comprehensively consider authoritarian attitudes in Russia. The results showed that personological profile and pattern of reaction to threat among Russian authoritarians is similar to Western authoritarians. However, economic views inherited from Soviet ideology make Russians differ in their view on economic conservatism supported by Western authoritarians. These data provide insight into the psychology of authoritarianism as well as explore novel aspects of Russian culture.
... The term RWA is in fact misleading because the characteristic symptoms of RWA are found in persons who follow the ideologies of dominant leaders, whether these are left wing or right wing. In fact, characteristics analogous to RWA have been documented in persons with left wing opinions in communist and ex-communist countries and even in the USA (Conway, 2021;Grigoryev et al., 2022;de Regt et al., 2011;Costello et al., 2022). The situation is far from symmetrical, though. ...
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Individual danger and collective danger have very different effects according to the predictions of a theory named regality theory, based on evolutionary psychology. This study explores the effects of different kinds of danger on 37 different indicators of psychological and cultural responses to danger based on data from two waves of the World Values Survey, including 173,000 respondents in 79 countries. The results show that individual danger and collective danger have very different – and often opposite – psychological and cultural effects. Collective dangers are positively correlated with many indicators related to authoritarianism, nationalism, discipline, intolerance, religiosity, etc. Individual dangers have neutral or opposite correlations with many of these indicators. Infectious diseases have little or no effects on these indicators. Many previous studies that confound different kinds of danger may be misleading. Several psychological and cultural theories are discussed in relation to these results. The observed effects of collective danger are in agreement with many of these theories, while individual danger has unexpected effects. The findings are not in agreement with terror management theory and pathogen stress theory.
... Finally, we also moved beyond the more politically-loaded construct of right-wing authoritarianism and measured authoritarianism in a more politically-neutral way to not confound other ideological commitments to religious institutions or political parties. This is particularly important given that authoritarianism can manifest itself on the political right and the political left, depending on the individual and the social context (e.g., Conway, Houck, Gornick, & Repke, 2018;de Regt, Mortelmans, & Smits, 2011;Van Hiel, Duriez, & Kossowska, 2006). Indeed, recent analyses of the authoritarianism measure used here demonstrate that it is valid, stable over time, and exogenous to political party support and issue preferences (Engelhardt, Feldman, & Hetherington, 2021), unlike the right-wing authoritarianism scale (Satherley et al., 2021;Van Assche et al., 2019). ...
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What are the socio-political consequences of infectious diseases? Humans have evolved to avoid disease and infection, resulting in a set of psychological mechanisms that promote disease-avoidance, referred to as the behavioral immune system (BIS). One manifestation of the BIS is the cautious avoidance of unfamiliar, foreign, or potentially contaminating stimuli. Specifically, when disease infection risk is salient or prevalent, authoritarian attitudes can emerge that seek to avoid and reject foreign outgroups while favoring homogenous, familiar ingroups. In the largest study conducted on the topic to date (N > 240,000), elevated regional levels of infectious pathogens were related to more authoritarian attitudes on three geographical levels: across U.S. metropolitan regions, U.S. states, and cross-culturally across 47 countries. The link between pathogen prevalence and authoritarian psychological dispositions predicted conservative voting behavior in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and more authoritarian governance and state laws, in which one group of people imposes asymmetrical laws on others in a hierarchical structure. Furthermore, cross-cultural analysis illustrated that the relationship between infectious diseases and authoritarianism was pronounced for infectious diseases that can be acquired from other humans (nonzoonotic), and does not generalize to other infectious diseases that can only be acquired from non-human species (zoonotic diseases). At a time of heightened awareness of infectious diseases, the current findings are important reminders that public health and ecology can have ramifications for socio-political attitudes by shaping how citizens vote and are governed.
... Recently, however, a growing number of political psychologists have been arguing more strongly for the existence of LWA and exploring its prevalence in various populations (Hiel et al., 2006;De Regt et al., 2011;Conway III et al., 2018;Fasce & Avendaño, 2020). Authoritarianism has been shown to be predicted by contagion threats (Murray et al., 2013) and to predict lower proenvironmental attitudes (Stanley & Wilson, 2019) as well as greater support for authoritarian political policies (Manson, 2020). ...
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Left-wing authoritarianism remains far less understood than right-wing authoritarianism. We contribute to the literature on the former, which typically relies on surveys, using a new social media analytics approach. We use a list of 60 terms to provide an exploratory sketch of the outlines of a political ideology (tribal equalitarianism) with origins in 19th and 20th century social philosophy. We then use analyses of the English Corpus of Google Books (over 8 million books) and scraped unique tweets from Twitter (n = 202,852) to conduct a series of investigations to discern the extent to which this ideology is cohesive amongst the public, reveals signatures of authoritarianism and has been growing in popularity. Though exploratory, our results provide some evidence of left-wing authoritarianism in two forms (1) a uniquely conservative moral signature amongst ostensible liberals using measures from Moral Foundations Theory and (2) a substantial prevalence of anger, relative to anxiety or sadness. In general, results indicate that this worldview is growing in popularity, is increasingly cohesive, and shows signatures of authoritarianism.
Проанализированы связи авторитарности с разноплановыми личностными чертами. Выборка состояла из 401 респондента в возрасте 18–78 лет (М = 26,58, SD = 12,91), 55,9% из них – женщины. Общая авторитарность, а также две ее составляющих (авторитарное подчинение и агрессия; конвенционализм) диагностировались по Краткому опроснику авторитарности (опроснику авторитаризма правого толка Б.Альтемейера, сокращенному и адаптированному авторами исследования). В работе рассматривались также частные черты личности: локус контроля, показатели по шкале детерминизма – свободы воли (FAD Plus), толерантность к неопределенности и удовлетворенность жизнью. Регрессионный анализ свидетельствует о том, что предикторами авторитарности выступают социо-демографические показатели – пол и наличие / отсутствие сиблингов и ряд личностных черт – интернальность в области достижений, все три показателя FAD plus (фатализм, свобода воли и непредсказуемость окружающего мира) и удовлетворенность жизнью. Уровень субъективного контроля коррелирует преимущественно с конвенционализмом: более высокой авторитарности соответствует интернальный локус контроля. Показано, что связь авторитарности с интернальностью частично обусловлена интернальностью в семейных отношениях. Удовлетворенность жизнью связана положительно со всеми показателями авторитарности. Полученные взаимосвязи авторитарности с интернальным локусом контроля и удовлетворенностью жизнью не противоречат предположению о компенсаторной функции авторитарности.
Democracy was forged in the furnaces of oppression, whether combatting tyranny or affirming the rights of the individual. As democracy is under threat in many parts of the world, there has never been a more urgent need to understand political thoughts and behaviours. This lucid and accessible book brings together a global group of scholars from psychology, political science, communication, sociology, education and psychiatry. The book's structure, based on Abraham Lincoln's well-known phrase 'Of, by and for' the people, scrutinises the psychological factors experienced by politicians as representatives 'of' the electorate, the political institutions and systems devised 'by' those we elect, and the societies that influence the context 'for' us as citizens. From trust to risk, from political values to moral and religious priorities, from the personality and language of leaders to fake news and anti-democratic forces, this book provides vital new insights for researchers, politicians and citizens alike.
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Notwithstanding long-simmering controversies around the construct, several studies have gathered consistent evidence of authoritarian attitudes among left-wing voters and activists. Recently, Costello et al. (Clarifying the structure and nature of left-wing authoritarianism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2021) validated, in the English-speaking context, a three-factor scale to measure left-wing authoritarianism, as well as two shortened versions of the same scale (Costello & Patrick, Development and initial validation of two brief measures of left-wing authoritarianism: A machine learning approach, 2021; composed of 39, 25 and 13 items, respectively). In this article, we used three samples (total N = 2586) to validate the structural and construct validity of a Spanish adaptation of these three versions. The resulting scales exhibited an analogous three-factor structure, adequate internal consistency, and convergent and discriminant validity regarding sex, religion, moral exporting, conspiracy theories, social and economic conservatism, and right-wing authoritarianism.
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Civil liberties and rights such as freedom of expression, press, thought, religion, association, lifestyle, and equality against the law are being subjected to controversies within the socio-political landscape of Western developed countries. Based on a literature review, we developed two hypotheses aimed at explaining divergent attitudes toward civil liberties among politically charged online communities on each side of the political spectrum. We report a correlational study using a cross-sectional sample of social media users (N = 902), whose results suggest that, as expected by our hypotheses, support for civil liberties tend to be higher among online groups of rightists—with economic conservatism being the only positive predictor and left-wing authoritarianism being a strong negative predictor. These results are discussed in relation to polarization over civil liberties and perceived power imbalances between online groups.
Until the spring of 1988, Soviet psychologists had almost no access to Western research on authoritarianism. Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford’s (1950) classic, The Authoritarian Personality, was found only in special library preserves, and even specialists had great difficulty getting access to this work. Books on related constructs, such as Rokeach’s (1960) The Open and Closed Mind on dogmatism, were similarly restricted, at least in many areas of the former Soviet Union. While many Soviet psychologists knew these works existed, very few had the opportunity to read and evaluate them first hand.
From 1950 through 1989, Psychological Abstracts listed 2,341 publications on authoritarianism and dogmatism. To make sense of the often con­tradictory results reported in this vast literature on authoritarianism, a search was initiated to discover whether there are systematic tendencies, focusing on F-scale levels across the many groups tested. The object was to assess the validity of the F scale. Are high scores associated with antidemocratic, profascist tendencies? This was one of the issues that the Berkeley group was unable to address. Surprisingly, such a systematic analysis of F-scale scores has never been conducted, either by follow-up investigators or by reviewers such as Wrightsman (1977), Brown (1965), Byrne (1974), Cherry and Byrne (1977), Dillehay (1978), Goldstein and Blackman (1978), or Altemeyer (1981). The present global meta-analysis, in the classic sense of a combinational approach, is an attempt to correct for this important omission. The present study was part of a wider survey into the validity of authoritarianism research. Only the initial global meta-analysis over the first three decade period will be presented here. For a more complete account see Meloen (1983). Later findings in the 1980s generally supported its conclusions, and some relevant ones have been included in this report.
One-hundred and fifteen students enrolled in psychology and sociology courses at the University of Alabama responded to several measures including (a) the California F scale, (b) a measure of liking for militant students, Negroes, and the NAACP, and of disliking for police, the U. S. military, and college administrators, and (c) a measure of disliking for militant students, Negroes, and the NAACP, and of liking for police, the U.S. military, and college administrators. The second and third measures were viewed as measures of left-wing and right-wing prejudice, respectively. The F scale correlated.70 with right-wing prejudice and -.25 with left-wing prejudice. In a subgroup of 45 selected on the basis of right or left extremity, these correlations were.79 and -.65.
In a prepublication discussion of The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950) research, Edward Shils (1948) was liberal in his praise. The researchers, he then believed, had “succeeded in isolating the set of personality and attitudinal characteristics which make for receptivity to anti-Semitic ideas. The relevance of psychoanalytic categories and hypotheses, flexibly used, in the understanding of social cleavages is better demonstrated in this study than anywhere else” (Shils, 1948, p. 29). The preliminary report that Shils cited was on the anti-Semitic personality; he did not mention the equation of this personality with prefascist leanings. About the time Shils was making this assessment, the concerns of United States policy and public opinion makers were refocusing. Fascism had been defeated; the new enemy was communism. The name of Joseph McCarthy was coming to be synonymous with irresponsible attacks on people in government, academia, and the arts who had left-wing sympathies. By 1950, anticommunism had come to the fore as the engine of U.S. foreign policy.