Conceptual, empirical, and practical problems with the claim that intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination are equivalent on the political left and right

Vivienne Badaan, John T. Jost

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Proponents of the ‘ideological symmetry thesis’ claim that liberals and conservatives are equally prejudiced — but against different groups. Whereas conservatives are said to be more prejudiced against ‘left-leaning’ groups (such as racial, religious, and sexual minorities), liberals are said to be prejudiced against ‘right-leaning’ groups (such as racial, religious, and sexual majorities). We identify several problems with scholarship in this area: (1) evidence for ideological symmetry with respect to intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination is unconvincing; (2) it is based on shaky conceptual foundations, including a problematic definition of prejudice; and (3) the ideological symmetry hypothesis is contradicted by much of what we know about intergroup relations in society. For instance, in the U.S, FBI hate crime statistics — cataloguing violent crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity — show that members of racial/ethnic minority groups (African Americans, Latinx, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and mixed race individuals) are dozens of times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than European Americans, adjusting for population base rates. Muslims are dozens of times more likely and Jews are hundreds of times more likely than Christians to be victims. LGBTQ people are thousands of times more likely to be victimized than heterosexuals. After considering several interpretations of these and related facts, we conclude that twentieth century theories of authoritarianism, prejudice, and ideological asymmetry account for the totality of evidence much better than recent theories stressing moral and ideological equivalence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-238
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Volume34
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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