We trace the rise, fall, and resurgence of political ideology as a topic of research in social, personality, and political psychology. For over 200 years, political belief systems have been classified usefully according to a single left—right (or liberal-conservative) dimension that, we believe, possesses two core aspects: (a) advocating versus resisting social change and (b) rejecting versus accepting inequality. There have been many skeptics of the notion that most people are ideologically inclined, but recent psychological evidence suggests that left-right differences are pronounced in many life domains. Implicit as well as explicit preferences for tradition, conformity, order, stability, traditional values, and hierarchy—versus those for progress, rebelliousness, chaos, flexibility, feminism, and equality—are associated with conservatism and liberalism, respectively. Conservatives score consistently higher than liberals on measures of system justification. Furthermore, there are personality and lifestyle differences between liberals and conservatives as well as situational variables that induce either liberal or conservative shifts in political opinions. Our thesis is that ideological belief systems may be structured according to a left-right dimension for largely psychological reasons linked to variability in the needs to reduce uncertainty and threat.
ASJC Scopus subject areas