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New psychology research finds extreme ideologues feel superior in political beliefs

by AirTalk®

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Tea Party supporters attend a Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada on March 27, 2010. New research suggests people with political opinions on the far left or right tend to believe their views superior to other; more so than do moderates. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Whether far left of far right, individuals with entrenched political opinions are more likely to believe their views are superior to others, according to new research. Social psychologists from Duke University used questionnaires about controversial political issues including affirmative action, welfare, and taxes to gauge the views of 500 participants. Study participants were also asked how correct their opinions were relative to the opinions of others.

Those who were most dug in on conservative views - of tax rates, affirmative action and voter ID laws - were also most dogmatic, a finding confirmed in other research dubbed as the “rigidity-of-the-right” hypothesis. Still, the Duke academics also found that liberals were most convinced of the superiority of their views on an equal number of issues (though obviously different subjects: welfare programs, the role of religion in policymaking and the use of torture on terrorists).

Participants with moderate views were more likely to say their beliefs are “no more correct than other viewpoints.” “There’s no logical reason why people who hold moderate, middle-of-the-road attitudes wouldn’t think that their attitudes are superior. But they don’t tend to believe that; it’s the people with extreme attitudes who are disproportionately convinced they are right,” explained researcher Kaitlin Toner.

What’s your opinion of being highly opinionated? When does rigidity harm and when does it help political discourse? Where do you fall on the scale of superiority of views, if you care to admit it?


Kaitlin Toner, Social Psychologist, now at Vanderbilt University; Co-Author of the study in the journal “Psychological Science,” which was undertaken by Duke University researchers

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