Liberalism and Conservatism, for a Change! Rethinking the Association Between Political Orientation and Relation to Societal Change

Jutta Proch, Julia Elad-Strenger, Thomas Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

According to common wisdom, which is supported by extant psychological theorizing, a core feature of political conservatism (vs. liberalism) is the resistance to (vs. acceptance of) societal change. We propose that an empirical examination of the actual difference in political liberals’ and conservatives’ attitudes toward change across different sociopolitical issues may call into question this assumed association between political orientation and relation to change. We examined this proposition in four studies conducted in Germany. In Study 1, we assessed lay people's intuitions about liberals’ and conservatives’ attitudes toward change. Results of this study concur with theoretical assumptions that liberals accept and conservatives resist change. In Study 2a, Study 2b, and Study 3, self-identified liberals and conservatives were asked whether they would resist or accept change on various sociopolitical issues. Results of these studies suggest that both conservatives and liberals resist and accept societal changes, depending on the extent to which they approve or disapprove of the status quo on a given sociopolitical issue. Overall, our findings provide no evidence for a one-directional association between political orientation and the tendency to accept or resist change. These findings therefore challenge theoretical and lay assumptions regarding general, context-independent psychological differences underlying political ideologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-903
Number of pages27
JournalPolitical Psychology
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Society of Political Psychology

Keywords

  • conservatism
  • liberalism
  • political orientation
  • resistance to change

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