What is it about?

Political groups are often divided on a scale from right- to left-wing. Right-wing groups are conservative and favor social hierarchy and traditions and tend to respect authority. In contrast, left wing groups tend to favor liberalism and independent thought. These leanings can shape individuals’ attitudes towards political issues and their acceptance of government mandates. Take, for example, the COVID-19 lockdowns. Most governments enforced preventative measures to control the spread of COVID-19. While some people might see these measures as controlling, others might not. Right-wingers might just be more accepting of government mandates. Now, while we see how political leanings could shape an individual’s view, how they change with a threat like COVID-19 isn’t clear. There are studies that say that such threats bring out the latent “authoritarianism” (a pattern characterized by a desire for order) in society. But does this authoritarianism affect people’s political attitudes? To study these dynamics, authors of a recent study assessed right-wing inclinations, political attitudes (specifically, nationalism or love for one's country, and attitudes about immigrants), and anxiety about COVID-19 in 2,025 adults from the UK and 1,041 from Republic of Ireland. Information from these adults was collected during the strict phase of lockdown. The study revealed some interesting findings. The association between right-wing political views and people’s political attitudes was found to be conditional. It depended on the level of threat perceived by the people in question. For example, right-wingers became more nationalistic if they believed the threat of COVID-19 was greater. This same belief also led right-wingers to have a negative view of immigrants.

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Why is it important?

Many factors were at play during the pandemic. Some of these were social media, the news, and the anxiety of a looming existential threat. These sparked a negative view of outsiders in the minds of people. These findings could help governments and are especially relevant in a crisis like the ongoing pandemic. KEY TAKEAWAY: The existential threat of COVID-19 increased nationalism and made public opinion more prejudiced against outsiders.

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This page is a summary of: The Authoritarian Dynamic During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Effects on Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment, Social Psychological and Personality Science, January 2021, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1948550620978023.
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