Political ideology: Its structure, functions, and elective affinities

John T. Jost, Christopher M. Federico, Jaime L. Napier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Ideology has re-emerged as an important topic of inquiry among social, personality, and political psychologists. In this review, we examine recent theory and research concerning the structure, contents, and functions of ideological belief systems. We begin by defining the construct and placing it in Instorical and philosophical context. We then examine different perspectives on how many (and what types of) dimensions individuals use to organize their political opinions. We investigate (a) how and to what extent individuals acquire the discursive contents associated with various ideologies, and (b) the social-psychological functions that these ideologies serve for those who adopt them. Our review highlights "elective affinities" between situational and dispositional needs of individuals and groups and the structure and contents of specific ideologies. Finally, we consider the consequences of ideology, especially with respect to attitudes, evaluations, and processes of system justification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-337
Number of pages31
JournalAnnual review of psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Authoritarianism
  • Motivated social cognition
  • Political orientation
  • System justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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