Persistent beliefs: Political extremism predicts ideological stability over time

Maria V. Zwicker*, Jan Willem van Prooijen, André P.M. Krouwel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous research suggests that political extremists have stronger convictions in their beliefs than moderates. The present research examines the relationship between political extremism and belief stability, defined as the extent to which people change their ideological beliefs over time. Studies 1 (N = 397) and 2 (N = 291) revealed that participants at the left and right extremes report more stable beliefs than political moderates. We then reanalyzed a longitudinal study that tracked actual ideological changes over time during a referendum (Study 3, N = 5812). Results indicated that for ideological orientation measured at three time points, politically extreme respondents had lower standard deviations—and hence, more stable ideologies over time—than moderates. Furthermore, the effect appeared more pronounced among people at the left than people at the right. We discuss implications of these insights for political extremism in society and the malleability of political ideology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1137-1149
Number of pages13
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • belief stability
  • ideology
  • political extremism
  • political orientation


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