Persistent Beliefs: Political Extremism Predicts Ideological Stability over Time

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Abstract

Previous research suggests that political extremists have stronger convictions in their beliefs than moderates. Based on this insight, in the present research we examine the relationship between political extremism and belief stability, defined as the extent to which people change their ideological beliefs over time. Studies 1a and 1b revealed in cross-sectional designs that participants at the left and right extremes report more stable beliefs than political moderates. We also conducted a longitudinal study to track actual ideological changes over time during an election (Study 2). Results indicated that on ideological orientation, measured over three time points, politically extreme respondents had lower standard deviations—and hence, more stable ideologies over time—than moderates. Furthermore, the effect appeared slightly more pronounced for people at the far left than people at the far right. We discuss implications of these insights for political polarization in society and the malleability of political ideology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

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