Analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition integrates theories of personality (authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, terror management), and ideological rationalization (social dominance, system justification).
A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism:
- death anxiety (weighted mean r .50);
- system instability (.47);
- dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity (.34);
- openness to experience (–.32);
- uncertainty tolerance (–.27);
- needs for order, structure, and closure (.26);
- integrative complexity (–.20);
- fear of threat and loss (.18); and
- self-esteem (–.09).
The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.