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This is one of a series of excerpts from older articles put online by John Ray as a public service. The articles concerned are in general otherwise available only by special request to a University or other major library.

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Psychology Today, 1970, 3, 27-59.

Those little old ladies in tennis shoes are no nuttier than anyone else, it turns out.



Alan C. Elms

I set out to collect data on a sample oŁ garden-variety rightists in Dallas. Dallas was chosen because I was there and because it is a major center for rightist activities. Members of the sample were chosen because each had written at least one recent letter to a local newspaper, an indication of some degree of political activism, and because the letter's contents met at least one of the current social-scientific criteria for American rightist extremism: belief in substantial Communist infiltration of important U.S. institutions; advocacy of extra-Constitutional means to achieve rightist political aims.

To anyone whose letter qualified as far-right, I sent a form letter, explaining that I was a social psychologist concerned with the ways in which opinion polls may misrepresent people's true opinions, and needed volunteers for a study that might show how bad the polls really are. Since right-wing legend has it that psychologists are out to send all true patriots to Alaskan mental institutions, rightists are seldom eager to cooperate with psychological research; but they are also quite hostile to public-opinion polls, so I got an unusually high proportion of positive responses. I also offered a cash payment for participation, but this seemed irrelevant for most volunteers.

... Two out of 21 far rightists, a proportion not much different from the average for the general population, had what appeared to be severe psychological problems; several others (but no more than among the non-extreme liberals in my sample) had minor problems or had had difficulties in the past, now apparently resolved with or without the help of their political opinions. The majority seemed to be psychologically healthy and stable and appeared never to have been otherwise, if I can believe extensive interview material, autobiographies, and projective tests

... The extreme rightists in my sample hardly differed from liberals on occupational mobility or job satisfaction --- practically everyone, right and left, was mildly dissatisfied.




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