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Political Psychology, 1983, 4, 139-143.

(With four post-publication addenda following the original article)


John J. Ray [1]

Accepted December 15, 1982

Evidence is summarized to show that: (1) if authoritarianism is measured by a behavior inventory, it is uncorrelated with either political party vote or ideology; (2) if measured by the California F scale, it shows little if any correlation with vote; and (3) scales of leftist political sentiment can be constructed which have high positive correlation with the F scale. As voting is arguably the most important political behavior for most people in a democracy, the roughly 50% of high F scale scorers who vote leftist are proposed as the long-lost authoritarians of the left.

KEY WORDS: leftist; rightist; authoritarianism; conservatism; F scale; political.

In his reply to the allegation by Stone (1981) to the effect that there is no evidence for the existence of left-wing authoritarianism, Eysenck (1982) relies on two types of data: a recounting of some of the events of recent history and evidence in support of his own two-dimensional account of ideology. One might call this "political" and "psychological" evidence. The evidence of left-wing authoritarianism in political life has been there for all to see ever since the Bolshevik revolution, so we can surely have little quarrel with Eysenck's evidence of this kind. Where the puzzle lies is that psychologists have found it difficult to produce evidence of psychological authoritarianism among left-wingers. We know that many leftist governments behave in an authoritarian way, but where are the authoritarian attitudes among left-wingers to explain such behavior? Eysenck offers only his own work as evidence of such attitudes.

It would, however, be very unfortunate if readers were left with the impression that one has to accept Eysenck's work on the subject in order to accept that there is psychological authoritarianism among leftists. This is both because Eysenck's work has been subjected to serious attack and because better evidence has long been under the nose of most psychologists. It would be tedious to reiterate at length the many criticisms of Eysenck's theory (e.g., Christie, 1956; Rokeach and Hanley, 1956; Hasleton, 1975; Ray, 1980; Ray and Bozek, 1981). Suffice it to say that for reasons best known to himself, Eysenck insists on regarding any two-factor description of the social attitude domain as support for his theory, and is quite insistent on referring to the second factor as measuring toughmindedness even when this is a laughably inadequate and inaccurate description of what the items involved actually say.

The better evidence that has long been available is the relationship between various measures of authoritarianism and vote. Although it is true that the F scale generally correlates well with measures specifically designed to measure conservatism of ideology, it is far from true that the F scale is a generally good predictor of candidate or party preference at election time. For instance, after almost every American presidential election, a study examines the candidate preferences of high F scale scorers (Hanson, 1975, 1981; Byrne and Przybyla, 1980). While a highly significant differentiation does sometimes appear, particularly among students, on other occasions the relationship drops to insignificance, particularly among general population samples [2]. The failure of the F scale to predict preference for conservative political parties is also well documented (Hanson, 1975; Ray, 1973a). The implication of this, then, is that half of the authoritarians surveyed prefer leftist alternatives at election time. They are the "missing" left-wing authoritarians. Nor is this finding limited to the F scale as a measure of authoritarianism. The work of Rokeach (1960) is well known and even the behaviorally oriented Ray (1976) "Directiveness" scale of authoritarian personality shows the same results (Ray, 1979a).

It is tempting to say that all this reflects is that democratic politics are the politics of tweedledum and tweedledee. If no real choice is offered and both candidates are always really center candidates, there is simply no opportunity for the authoritarian to express his preference in an effective way. To say this is, however, to equate figures as diverse as George McGovern and Richard Nixon. Would anyone really want to do that? Surely Reagan supporters should have shown at least some tendency to be more authoritarian than Carter supporters?

How then do we explain that the F scale is ideologically rightist when predicting score on a scale of conservative ideology but ideologically neutral when predicting vote? The only possible explanation would seem to lie in a questioning of the F scale's validity. It seems clear that the F scale is nothing but a measure of conservatism (Ray, 1973b, 1976; Hartmann, 1977) -- but conservatism of a particularly old-fashioned and tough-minded sort, conservatism with little or no present-day political relevance. The F scale, then, correlates with measures of conservatism because it does measure a type of conservatism. It does not generally correlate with vote because that type of conservatism is of little or no current political relevance. It is the popular wisdom of yesteryear. It is the sort of "wisdom" to which all candidates would pay some homage but which none would adopt as a serious political program.

It may be noted that, because this explanation denies that the F scale measures authoritarianism, it also undermines the account of high F scorers who vote for leftist candidates as being left-wing authoritarians. How then do we detect authoritarianism of any kind, let alone leftist authoritarianism? We do, of course, have Rokeach's solution to this question but his work is closely related to the F scale work and suffers from similar difficulties (Ray, 1979b). The answer that I have been proposing for some time is to measure authoritarianism not by an attitude scale but by a personality scale or behavior inventory (Ray, 1976, 1982a). If we do this, we get not only a scale with demonstrable validity in predicting authoritarian interpersonal behavior (unlike the F scale) but also one that shows no overall correlation with political ideology (Ray, 1976, 1979a, 1982b). Authoritarianism has been shown, then, to be a personality rather than an attitude variable and to be equally common in leftists and rightists (Ray, 1982a).

For many readers, however, this approach will be unacceptable. To them, the F scale just is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is that personality of which the F scale is an index. Even if the F scale does not predict present authoritarian behavior, it will still for them be a measure of potential for such behavior. While this position would be unintelligible to behaviorists and may even be unfalsifiable, it does have its supporters. It appears to emerge almost invariably among the criticisms that referees give of my various papers on the subject when they are being considered for publication.

Even for people holding this position, however, a scale of specifically leftist authoritarianism is quite possible. During the Vietnam era, I collected a series of statements of the sort that were being shouted by leftist activists and taught by leftist social scientists in the full expectation that they would show a high negative correlation with the F scale. Had I administered these statements to the usual sample of freshmen students, they probably would have. As I was intrepid enough to administer them to a general population sample, however, what I found was very much the opposite -- a high positive association (Ray, 1972, 1974). The sentiments espoused by the anti-war activists were highly authoritarian -- if we take the F scale as measuring authoritarianism. [The study by Lichter and Rothman (1982) is also, of course, highly relevant here.]

In summary, then, whether we accept or reject the F scale as a measure of authoritarianism, the evidence for left-wing authoritarianism abounds in the psychological literature. It is a strange irony that neither Stone nor Eysenck seemed able to find it.


[1] University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

[2] In examining reports of significant differences, it is tempting to see high levels of significance as indicating strong association. This is, of course, an elementary mistake. Significance is most influenced by sample size. This is most clearly seen if we realize that an N of only 200 will show a correlation of only 0.138 as significant at the 0.05 level (Edwards, 1960, p. 362). When we reflect that this explains less than 2% of the common variance, it will be seen why even studies that show the F scale as significantly differentiating candidates will still often not seriously threaten the generalization proposed here that just about as many authoritarians support leftist as rightist candidates. Even if leftist authoritarians are sometimes outnumbered by rightist authoritarians, they are still a large throng. In reading Hanson's (1981) results it should be noted that he appears to have made a computational mistake with respect to the D scale (but not the F scale). On the means and SDs he gives, the D scale did not significantly differentiate Carter and Reagan supporters.


Byrne, D., and Przybyla, D: P. (1980). Authoritarianism and political preference in 1980. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 16: 471-472.

Christie, R. (1956). Eysenck's treatment of the personality of Communists. Psychological Bulletin 53: 41I-438.

Edwards, A. L. (1960). Experimental Design in Psychological Research, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York (revised ed.).

Eysenck, H. J. (1982). Left-wing authoritarianism: Myth or reality? Political Psychology 3(1, 2): 234-238.

Hanson, D. J. (1975). Authoritarianism as a variable in political research. II Politico 40(4): 700-705.

Hanson, D. J. (1981). Authoritarianism and candidate preference in the 1980 presidential election. Psychological Reports 49: 326.

Hartmann, P. (1977). A perspective on the study of social attitudes. Eur. J. Social Psychol. 7: 85-96.

Hasleton, S. (1975). Permissiveness in Australian society. Aust. J. Psychol. 27: 257-267.

Lichter, S. R., and Rothman, S. (1982). Jewish ethnicity and radical culture: A social psychological study of political activity. Political Psychol. 3(1, 2): 116-157.

Ray, J.J. (1972) Militarism and psychopathology: A reply to Eckhardt & Newcombe J. Conflict Resolution, 16, 357-362.

Ray, J.J. (1973a) Dogmatism in relation to sub-types of conservatism: Some Australian data. European J. Social Psychology 3, 221-232.

Ray, J.J. (1973b) Conservatism, authoritarianism and related variables: A review and an empirical study. Ch. 2 in: G.D. Wilson (Ed.) The psychology of conservatism London: Academic Press.

Ray, J.J. (1974) Authoritarian humanism. Ch. 42 in Ray, J.J. (Ed.) Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.

Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

Ray, J.J. (1979a) Does authoritarianism of personality go with conservatism? Australian Journal of Psychology 31, 9-14.

Ray, J.J. (1979b) Is the Dogmatism scale irreversible? South African Journal of Psychology 9, 104-107.

Ray, J.J. (1980) Are authoritarians extroverted? British Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology 19, 147-148.

Ray, J.J. (1982a) Authoritarianism/libertarianism as the second dimension of social attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 33-44.

Ray, J.J. (1982b) Climate and conservatism in Australia. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 297-298.

Ray, J.J. & Bozek, R.S. (1981) Authoritarianism and Eysenck's 'P' scale. Journal of Social Psychology, 113, 231-234.

Rokeach, M. (1960). The Open and Closed Mind, Basic Books, New York.

Rokeach, M., and Hanley, C. (I956). Care and carelessness in psychology. Psychol. Bull. 53: 183-186.

Stone, W. F. (1981). The myth of left-wing authoritarianism. Political Psychol. 2: 3-19.


1). The negligible differentiation of Nixon versus McGovern voters provided by the F scale is particularly striking in view of Lindgren's (1974) demonstration that even the basic demographic variables of education and income were strong predictors in that race. There was, for instance, a huge association (a .61 correlation) between high income and preference for McGovern! So there is no doubt how heavily polarizing the race was. The predictive performance of a scale with such large claims to detect the roots of conservative ideology can in the circumstances only be seen as pathetic. The sort of old-fashioned tough-mindedness it appears to measure seems to be spead across the general population political spectrum with most remarkable uniformity, in fact.

2). A study that should have been mentioned above is that by Sutherland & Tanenbaum (1980). This was a remarkably rigorous study that used a large Canadian general population sample and applied to it scales that distinguished carefully between the various supposed "components" of authoritarianism. It may be noted from their Table III that high and low scorers of their measure of "General Obedience" (excerpted from the F scale) were virtually identical in political party orientation -- both being on average very much at the political centre in fact.

3). It may also be worth noting that another researcher (Goertzel (1987) did manage to derive through factor analysis two personality measures that seem to correspond fairly closely with the usual proposals for what underlies political orientation. One of his two scales was called "tendermindedness-toughness" and is as such clearly another approach to measuring authoritarianism as a personality dimension. So how did it correlate with a range of political beliefs in a community sample? Negligibly in all cases -- see his Table 4. So as in Ray (1979), authoritarian personality was found to be equally common among the supporters of both sides of major political issues.

4). Research that used available groups of college students or their parents is of course of very dubious generalizability but as such studies are by far the most common in the literature, it might be worth noting that both Altemeyer (1988, p. 239) and McCann & Stewin (1986) found that scales of authoritarianism did not predict Canadian political party preference.


Altemeyer, R. (1988) Enemies of freedom: Understanding Right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Goertzel, T. G. (1987) Authoritarianism of personality and political attitudes. J. Social Psychology, 127 (1), 7-18.

Lindgren, H.C. (1974) Political conservatism and its social environment: An analysis of the American Presidential election of 1972. Psychological Reports, 34, 55-62.

Ray, J.J. (1979) Does authoritarianism of personality go with conservatism? Australian Journal of Psychology 31, 9-14.

McCann, S.J.H. & Stewin, L.L. (1986) Authoritarianism and Canadian voting preferences for political party, Prime Minister and President. Psychological Reports, 59, 1268-1270.

Sutherland, S.L. & Tanenbaum, E.J. (1980) Submissive authoritarians: Need we fear the fearful toadie? Canadian Review of Sociology & Anthropology, 17 (1), 1-23.

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