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European J. Social Psychology, 1973, 3 (3), 221-132.



University of New South Wales


An examination of the relation between authoritarianism and conservatism is made using newly developed balanced forms of the 'D' and 'F' scales together with scales to measure political, social, moral and economic conservatism. Neither 'BD' nor 'BF scales predicted voting preference. The 'BD' scale was significantly positively related to the political, social and moral conservatism scales but was non-significantly negatively related to economic conservatism. It was concluded that both the 'BD' and 'BF scales are equally good measures of general authoritarianism among supporters of Australian political parties and that while it is in general true that dogmatic people tend to be ideologically conservative, an exception must be made for economic conservatism. This exception is seen to be inferable from the theory of 'working class authoritarianism' advanced by Lipset (1960).

Costin (1971) has recently raised anew the controversy over the political polarization of the Rokeach Dogmatism scale (see Simons, 1968; Kirtley and Harkness, 1969). Although the measure of conservatism he used was an interesting one, there are three major problems that limit the acceptability of his findings. These are: 1) His use of student subjects; 2) his assumption that conservatism is a unitary variable; 3) his use of the Dogmatism scale in its original, unbalanced form. It is well-known that results obtained with students cannot often be generalized to the population at large, and the relation between conservatism in different fields is known to be quite variable (Kerr, 1955; Anderson and Western, 1967). Lipset, in particular, has proposed a fundamental distinction between conservatism in economic and non-economic fields (Lipset, 1960). In his test of Lipset's theory, O'Kane (1970) found a correlation of only .29 between these two forms of conservatism. The use of one-way-worded scales also leaves open the question whether it might not be the characteristics of the acquiescent person that are being measured rather than the characteristics of the true Dogmatist (Peabody, 1961, 1966). The existence of the Ray (1970) balanced Dogmatism scale makes unnecessary the continued reliance on the unbalanced form.


The present study, then, represents an attempt to provide more defensible data on the questions that Costin (1971) raises. General population sampling will be used; separate scales to measure economic, social, moral and political conservatism will be used; and Dogmatism will be measured by a further development of Ray's (1970) balanced Dogmatism scale. The items of the four conservatism scales have already been given in Ray (1971).


The sample used in this study was one especially designed to enable a test of Lipset's (1960) theory that the working class is more conservative than the middle and upper classes. The study of Dogmatism reported here is essentially a by-product of that larger study. The sample was obtained therefore by selecting city blocks in the Sydney metropolitan area for extreme position on the Congalton (1969) 'prestige ranking of Sydney suburbs'. Extreme low prestige and extreme high prestige suburbs were selected, and blocks from these randomly selected from the map with a pin and blindfold. An attempt was then made to interview at least one person from every household in the block. The sample so obtained numbered 118. Since this sample is being used to find out whether there is in general a relationship -- not to provide precise estimates of parameters -- the fact that it is not a perfectly random one is little disadvantage. It is in any event much more heterogeneous than previous samples.


The items of the modified balanced Dogmatism scale are given in the Appendix. The modifications were based on a pretest of a large body of reversed 'D' scale items correlated against scores on the original. This pretest was carried out on a heterogeneous sample including people contacted door-to-door. The original BD (Balanced Dogmatism -- Ray, 1970) scale was normed on students only, and it was desired to produce a second form suitable for general population use. The BD scale as used in the present research, then, was composed of items drawn both from the pretest mentioned above and from the original 1970 study. An attempt was made to combine the strongest items from the pretest with the strongest items from the 1970 study.

Also included in the questionnaire was the balanced 'F' scale or 'BF' scale. For details of this scale see Ray (1972b). On its norming sample (identical with the 'pretest' sample mentioned above) this scale had shown a reliability of .87 and a correlation between its positive and negative halves of -.71. All positive items were original F scale items and all negative items were reversals of original F scale items. It is thus unlike the 'balanced F scale' (sic) produced by Lee and Warr (1969). The Lee and Warr scale contains only five items traceable to the F scale original.


The correlations resulting from the present study are set out in Table 1. It will be evident that the correlates of the BD and BF scales are in general quite similar - though the BF scale shows notably higher correlations with political and social conservatism. The results also provide ample warrant for the breakdown of conservatism by content area. Dogmatism is highly positively related to social conservatism but negatively (though insignificantly) related to economic conservatism. Conservatism on issues of sexual morality seems to be the form of conservatism that has the highest relation to Dogmatism. Forming something of a contrast with the scales of conservatism are the results obtained for political party preference. In accordance with the Australian party system, this was scored: D.L.P. - 5; L.C.P. - 4; No preference - 3; A.L.P. - 2; Communist -1. This scoring system has been used in several previous Australian studies (e.g. Ray, 1970; 1971, 1972) though, strictly speaking, only ordinal properties can be claimed for it. It represents a continuum from Right to Left across the Australian political spectrum. The correlations so obtained show that neither Dogmatism nor Authoritarianism were related to conservatism of political party choice.

Table 1. Correlations between the BD and BF scales and selected conservatism measures. n = 118. An r above .180 is significant at the .05 level, two-tailed. 'Sex' scored: Male = 1; Female =2.


1. Age........................................-.018... -.086... .074... .183... .157.. .352.. .123.. .218
2. Sex.................................................... .057... .204... .068... .206.. .005..-.021.. .031
3. Voting preference........................................ .312... .194... .393... .121.. .072.. .097
4. Political conservatism scale................................... .528.. .400... .311.. .204.. .519
5. Social conservatism scale................................................ .242... .422.. .406.. .717
6. Economic conservatism scale..................................................... .100..-.126.. .102
7. Moral conservatism scale......................................................................... .572.. .580
8. Balanced Dogmatism......................................................................................... .617


It has been shown here that in one sense both the BF and BD scales measure 'general authoritarianism'. Both sorts of authoritarianism are equally likely to be found in either of the major political parties. Considering Rokeach's intentions, this result is not particularly surprising for the Dogmatism scale, but it might perhaps require some comment for the 'F' scale.

For a start, both scales showed satisfactory internal consistency. The correlations between the two halves of the BF scale and the BD scale were respectively -.560 and -.273. Coefficient alpha reliabilities were respectively .86 and .82. The correlation between the two halves of the BD scale is perhaps a little low but it fulfils what Ray (1972a) has argued are satisfactory criteria for any balanced scale - i.e., it is both negative in direction and significant. The present results cannot therefore be said to be due to unsatisfactory scales. In fact, the correlations were computed for the two halves of the BF scale treated as separate scales, and these showed that the 14 original F items had an even lower relation to political preference (r = .033) than did the balanced scale. We must conclude, therefore, that we have a case here where the often weak relation to the F scale of political preference has dropped to the point of insignificance. The correlation observed here does however conform to Brown's (1965) generalization that the correlation between the F scale and political preference is always 'at least positive'. The BF negative items with scoring reversed correlated .152 with political choice. This is still insignificant but it does seem to indicate greater discriminating power for the negative items. As reversals they are perhaps less cliche and thus require greater thought from the respondents. This effect is even more marked when we examine the two halves of the BD scale separately. The positive items correlated -.125 with political choice but the negative items (again reverse scored) correlated .291! This latter correlation is significant and does perhaps indicate that, when the items are really attended to, Dogmatism is related to political choice as well as ideological conservatism. We thus have the ironical circumstance of the F scale being a better measure of 'general authoritarianism' than the 'D' scale! One suggested explanation for this that may be worthy of consideration is that the items of the F scale are probably by now severely dated and are simply less socially relevant now than they were in the 1940s. The conservative voter of the 1970s probably simply sees these items as 'old-fashioned'. Age did correlate significantly positively with BF score (r = .218). It should also be remembered that party choice is determined by many things other than general ideology. Traditional loyalties, class-identification and self-interest may all play a part. Indeed Lipset (1960) suggests that class self-interest may generally cause the working-class subject to vote contrary to what his ideology would dictate. The separation out of economic conservatism suggested by Lipset's theory certainly did seem to pay off in that this form of conservatism alone showed a negative relation to Dogmatism.

It seems, then, that the only conclusion we can possibly draw is that the Dogmatist is conservative in some things but not in all.


The scales used in this study. Responses are from '5' (strongly agree) to '1' (strongly disagree) for each item. Items marked 'R' are scored '1' to '5'.

Political conservatism

1. The danger of communist infiltration into the union movement is great and the government should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that it does not become widespread.
2. An occupation by a foreign power is better than war. R.
3. Because many of the minor political parties merely confuse national issues, all political parties except the two major ones should be abolished.
4. Australia will not win respect in Asia by building up armed forces. R.
5. In taking part in any form of world organisation, this country should make certain that none of its independence and power is lost.
6. In disarmament negotiations the West should take the initiative by making concessions since such a procedure could produce concessions from the Soviet block. R.
7. Australia should seek more ties with Asia. R.
8. Patriotism and loyalty to one's country are more important than one's intellectual convictions and should have precedence over them.
9. A standing army of 100,000 men or over is necessary for our national defense at all times.
10. 'My country right or wrong' is a saying which expresses a fundamentally dangerous attitude. R.
11. In some ways dictatorships are desirable.
12. Australia should withdraw its troops from Vietnam immediately. R.
13. Conscription should be abolished. R.
14. International communism is the main danger to Australia today.

Economic conservatism

1. A free dental service should be provided by the government. R.
2. Private enterprise is always the most efficient system.
3. Capitalism is immoral because it exploits the worker by failing to give him full value for his productive labour. R.
4. The nationalization of the great industries is likely to lead to inefficiency, bureaucracy and stagnation.
5. Ultimately, private property should be abolished and complete socialism introduced. R.
6. Production and trade should be free from government interference.
7. The principle of free competition is a natural law which should govern our business system without governmental interference.
8. The growth of large corporations makes government regulation of business necessary. R.
9. The government should take over all industries. R.
10. Trade unions should have much more voice in deciding government policies. R.
11. For men to do their best, there must be the possibility of unlimited profit.
12. Poverty is chiefly a result of injustice in the distribution of wealth. R.
13. The government should not attempt to limit profits.
14. Large incomes should be taxed more than they are now. R.
15. Men would not do their best if government owned all industry.
16. On the whole, our economic system is just and wise.
17. When a rich man dies, most of his property should go to the state. R.
18. The incomes of most people are a fair measure of their contribution to human welfare.
19. A man should strike in order to secure greater returns to labour. R.
20. A man should be allowed to keep as large an income as he can get.
21. Money should be taken from the rich and given to the poor during hard times. R.

Moral conservatism

1. Most decent men have a right to expect that they will marry a virgin.
2. I think girls should remain virgins until they marry.
3. Men and women have the right to find out whether they are sexually suited before marriage (e.g. by trial marriage). R.
4. Pre-marital pregnancy is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide providing the couple is in love and later gets married. R.
5. It is best not to try to prohibit erotic and obscene literature and pictures by law but rather to leave people free to follow their judgments and tastes in such matters. R.
6. Marriage is a sacred covenant which should be broken only under the most drastic circumstances.
7. Sex relations except in marriage are always wrong.
8. Petting and necking between single people is unwise.
9. The pill should be made freely available to schoolchildren and students, even though they do not expect to marry soon. R.
10. Abortion should be legalized. R.

Social conservatism

1. The Japanese are a very productive people and should be allowed to settle in Australia. R.
2. Most migrants from Southern Europe become good citizens. R.
3. Nearly all Jews are money hungry.
4. The English-speaking countries have reached a higher state of civilization that any other country in the world and as a consequence have a culture which is superior to any other.
5. Over 10 per cent of the population is incapable of democratic participation in government by reason of their lack of inherited abilities.
6. Crime could be greatly reduced if we restricted migration to British people only.
7. Our treatment of criminals is too harsh; we should try to cure them, not punish them. R.
8. All men are equal. R.
9. Treason and murder should be punishable by death.
10. The death penalty for crime is barbaric and should be abolished. R.
11. Certain religious sects whose beliefs do not permit them to salute the flag should either be forced to conform or else be abolished.
12. There will always be superior and inferior races in the world, and in the interests of all concerned it is best that the superior continue to dominate the inferior.
13. In the national interest, private schools should either be abolished or restricted in their teachings so that the control of education is largely in the hands of the federal government.
14. We should have complete freedom of speech even for those who criticize the law. R.
15. Allowing educated Asians to immigrate benefits Australian society. R.
16. The white Australia policy is a good policy because it helps to keep Australia white.
17. We must be careful not to let too many Asians into the country or they'll take over the place.
18. People should be allowed to hold demonstrations in the streets without police interference. R.

The revised BD (Balanced Dogmatism) scale

1. It is a sign of maturity to be tolerant of widely different of even conflicting viewpoints. (Reverse)
2. To know the truth about what is going on we cannot rely simply on experts or leaders. (Reverse) 3. People who do something just because their religion commands it are blind. (Reverse)
4. The churches don't give enough weight to individual conscience. (Reverse)
5. It is possible that there are many facets to the 'truth'. (Reverse)
6. Many problems have more than one acceptable solution. (Reverse)
7. It's unfortunate that we have censorship in this country. (Reverse)
8. It doesn't matter much what religion a person follows. (Reverse)
9. A person who thinks primarily of his own happiness is beneath contempt. (Reverse)
10. Most people just don't know what's good for them.
11. The main thing in life is for a person to want to do something important.
12. If given the chance I would do something of great benefit to the world.
13. A man who does not believe in some great cause has not really lived.
14. It is only when a person devotes himself to an ideal or cause that life becomes meaningful.
15. Of all the different philosophies which exist in this world there is probably only one which is correct.
16. A person who gets enthusiastic about too many causes is likely to be a pretty 'wishy-washy' sort of person.
17. To compromise with our political opponents is dangerous because it usually leads to the betrayal of our own side.
18. When it comes to differences of opinion in religion we must be careful not to compromise with those who believe differently from the way we do.
19. In times like these, a person must be pretty selfish if he considers primarily his own happiness.
20. The worst crime a person could commit is to attack publicly the people who believe in the same thing he does.
21. It's possible to really live without believing in any great cause. (Reverse)
22. Life can be meaningful without devotion to ideals or causes. (Reverse)
23. All of the philosophies which exist in this world have some truth in them and probably not one is totally correct. (Reverse)
24. Man on his own is a helpless and miserable creature.
25. Most people just don't give a 'damn' for others.
26. I'd like it if I could find someone who would tell me how to solve my personal problems.
27. It is only natural for a person to be rather fearful of the future.
28. If we are going to have free speech we must defend the right to be heard of even those we disagree with. (Reverse)
29. If people in one's own group are always disagreeing among themselves that is probably a rather healthy sign. (Reverse)
30. There is no such thing as 'the Truth'. (Reverse)
31. The 'one true faith' is a myth. (Reverse)
32. The way to happiness is to get involved in the things going on about you. (Reverse)
33. There is never one right answer for any question. (Reverse)
34. For most questions there is only one right answer once a person is able to get all the facts.

The BF scale

1. The rebellious ideas of young people are often a constructive source of change for the better. R.
2. Homosexuality between consenting adults may be distasteful but it should not be regarded as a crime. R.
3. Many of the radical ideas of today will become the accepted beliefs and practices of tomorrow. R.
4. Familiarity does not breed contempt. R,
5. People who want to whip or imprison sex criminals are themselves sick. R.
6. What a youth needs most is to be free to make up his own mind, to be flexible and to work and fight for what he considers right personally, even though it might not be best for his family and country. R.
7. Many good people honestly could never bring themselves round to feeling much love, gratitude or respect for their parents. R.
8. You need to get out and rub elbows with all kinds of people to get new ideas and broaden your understanding of life. R.
9. There are times when it is necessary to probe into even the most personal and private matters. R.
10. It's all right for people to raise questions about even the most personal and private matters. R.
11. Insults to our honour are not always important enough to bother about. R.
12. Sex crimes such as rape and attacks on children are signs of mental illness; such people belong in hospitals rather than in prison. R.
13. Most honest people admit to themselves that they have sometimes hated their parents. R.
14. Disobedience to the government is sometimes justified. R.
15. If people would talk less and work more, everybody would be better off.
16. The business man and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the professor.
17. Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.
18. No sane, normal, decent person would ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
19. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down.
20. An insult to our honour should always be punished.
21. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be publicly whipped or worse.
22. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
23. Most of our social problems would be solved if we could somehow get rid of the immoral, crooked and feeble-minded people.
24. People can divide into two distinct classes: The weak and the strong.
25. What the youth needs most is strict discipline, rugged determination and the will to work and fight for family and country.
26. Familiarity breeds contempt.
27. There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel great love, gratitude and respect for his parents.
28. Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished.


Anderson, D. S., and Western, J. S. (1967) An inventory to measure students' attitudes. U. Queensland Papers, 1, 175206.

Brown, R. (1965) Social psychology. N.Y., Free Press, 1965.

Congalton, A. A. (1969) Prestige and status in Australia. Melbourne, Cheshire.

Costin, F. (1971) Dogmatism and conservatism: An empirical follow-up of Rokeach's findings. Educ. psych. Meas., 31, 1007-1010.

Kerr, W. A. (1955) Tulane factors of liberalism-conservatism (manual). Chicago, Psychometric affiliates.

Kirtley, D., and Harkness, R. (1969) Some personality and attitude correlates of Dogmatism. Psych. Rep., 24, 851-854.

Lee, R. E., and Warr, P. B. (1969) The development and standardization of a balanced 'F' scale. J. gen. Psychol., 81, 109129.

Lipset, S. M. (1960) Political Man. N.Y., Doubleday.

O'Kane, J. M. (1970) Economic and non-economic liberalism, upward mobility potential, and Catholic working class youth. Social Forces, 48, 499-506.

Peabody, D. (1961) Attitude content and agreement set in scales of authoritarianism, Dogmatism, anti-Semitism and economic conservatism. J. Abn. soc. Psychol., 63, 1-11.

Peabody, D. (1966) Authoritarianism scales and response bias. Psychol. Bull., 65, 11-23.

Ray, J.J. (1970) The development and validation of a balanced Dogmatism scale. Australian Journal of Psychology, 22, 253-260.

Ray, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50.

Ray, J.J.(1972) Acceptance of aggression and Australian voting preference. Australian Quarterly 44, 64-70.

Ray, J.J. (1972a) Are conservatism scales irreversible? British J. Social & Clinical Psychology 11, 346-352.

Ray, J.J. (1972b) A new balanced F scale -- And its relation to social class. Australian Psychologist 7, 155-166.

Simons, H. W. (1968) Dogmatism scales and Leftist bias. Speech Monographs, -35, 149-153.


Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.

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