Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 7 Number 3 July 1984, Pp. 406-412
AUTHORITARIANISM, CONSERVATISM AND RACISM
John J. Ray and Adrian Furnham
University of New South Wales and University College, London
Our understanding of the phenomena of racial discrimination has been considerably influenced by Sumner's concept of 'ethnocentrism' -- the idea that some people value the characteristics and ways of their own group excessively highly and therefore tend to devalue and scorn those who do not share such characteristics and folkways. Racial prejudice is seen as the other side of the coin of ethnic chauvinism (Sumner, 1906). Sumner's theory received striking and widely-noted support in the work of Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford (1950). They found a correlation among the people they surveyed of .80 between two scales of 'ethnocentrism' and antisemitism. Their 'ethnocentrism' scale, however, was not a measure of ethnic chauvinism or patriotism (national chauvinism) but rather a broad-ranging prejudice scale consisting of three sub-scales labelled 'Negroes', 'Minorities' and 'Patriotism'. Even the 'Patriotism' sub-scale was, however, something of a mixed bag - with items concerning 'Germans and Japs', 'Mexico', the inevitability of war and so on. The correlations between the sub-scales were however all high -- ranging from .74 to .83. The impression is clearly that ethnic sentiments of all types are all slightly different aspects of a single underlying phenomenon. Thus positive and negative ethnic sentiments are highly predictive of one-another. Patriots are racists. Patriots were also 'authoritarian', 'rigid' and all the other features that Adorno et al believed to be associated with prejudice. One of those other features was politico-economic conservatism.
Adorno et al did enter the caveat that they were talking of 'blind' love of country when they mentioned patriotism. Fascist patriotism was 'blind' but this did not mean that all love of country was blind. Given the high levels of patriotism in America at the time such qualification was of course politically necessary. Convenient though this distinction between two types of patriotism may be, however, it tells us little of patriotism in general.
Is patriotism generally of the (bad) kind described by Adorno et al as 'blind' or is it generally of the (good) kind described by them as 'genuine'? Furthermore, how do we distinguish between the two? What seems blind to us may seem very sensible even to the vast majority of the population. We think that dislike of Asians is blind yet 94 per cent of the British population did not want in Britain those Asians expelled by Idi Amin (1). It is very common for one to see one's political opponents as blind but it is hard to convince those opponents themselves that this is anything but a value judgment. Regrettably, then, any attempt to segregate types of patriotism must be highly arbitrary and, as such, probably not acceptable in any research with pretensions to objectivity. Clearly, then, what we need is some picture of the patriot in general.
The recent upsurge of national pride in Britain associated with the Falklands war seemed to represent a useful opportunity for the study of patriotism. Any phenomenon is probably best studied when it is alive and active rather than when it is dormant or little considered. The Falklands episode in fact would indeed at least at first sight seem to be a rather strong indication in support of the Adorno et al account of things. Love of military prowess and contempt for Argentinians certainly seemed on that occasion to be intimately allied with patriotic sentiment. By some comparisons, modern-day Britain is certainly a rather authoritarian society (Ray, 1983a).
Nonetheless, there are many reasons for questioning the Fascist nature of current British national pride -- not the least of which is the fact that the Falklands war was in important senses a specifically anti-Fascist war. It is also worth noting that there is an immense upwelling of national pride in Australia at the moment (Ray, 1981a) and this upsurge seems to be associated more with sporting achievements (such as winning the America's cup for yachting) than with anything else. Given the great social, cultural and genetic affinities between Australia and Britain the possibility must be considered that British patriotism could be as innocuous as Australian patriotism.
If, then, British patriotism is the sort of phenomenon described by Adorno et al., it should be associated with conservatism, authoritarianism and racial prejudice.
There is no doubt that the major form of ethnic prejudice in Britain today is prejudice against brown-skinned postwar immigrants and their descendants. Out of the two major categories of such (West Indians and Asians), the most interesting on the present occasion are the West Indians. These are people of negroid type such as inhabit sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the United States. As data on attitudes to blacks in South Africa. and the United States are available already (Ray, 1980a & 1980b), studying attitudes to much the same ethnic group in Britain should enable one to ask the question whether prejudice is higher or lower overall in Britain than it is in those other two countries. To this end, the prejudice scale used in the present research was the Ray (1974 & 1976) 'Attitude to Aborigines' scale -- but modified so that the word 'Aborigines' was uniformly replaced by 'West Indians'. Heaven & Moerdyk (1977) in South Africa did something similar when they used this scale with the word 'Aborigines' changed to 'blacks'. They interpreted their results as confirming the validity of the transformed scale. The Heaven and Moerdyk version of the scale was also found to function satisfactorily in the United States (Ray, 1980b).
The Patriotism scale used in the present research was a modification of the Ray (1974 & 1981a) Australian Patriotism scale. Because of the different things that might reasonably be said of Australia and of Britain, however, more extensive changes to the scale were needed than merely replacing the word 'Australian' with the word 'British'.
The scale of Politico-economic Conservatism used was also one that has seen extensive international use (Ray, 1984a, Ray and Heaven, 1984). The original Adorno et al. scale was considered too dated for further use. Again, the availability of means on the scale from samples taken in other countries is an important reason behind its use -- again enabling fairly precise comparisons of Britain with other countries. The scale has the interesting criterion-groups validity characteristic of showing Afrikaners as much more conservative than Australians or Americans (Ray and Heaven, 1984).
Research into authoritarianism has been bedevilled by the poor validity of the Adorno 'F' scale. Not only is the scale open to contamination from acquiescent response set (Altemeyer, 1981) but it fails to predict authoritarian behaviour (Ray, 1976, Ray and Lovejoy, 1983). Thus findings by Doob (1964) and others that nationalism and authoritarianism are not associated may simply be a function of the particular authoritarianism scale used. A much better scale therefore seemed to be the 16 item form of the Rigby (1982) 'GAIAS'. This is a comprehensive inventory of acceptance/rejection of conventional institutional authority that has been found to measure just what it purports to measure and nothing more (Ray and Lovejoy, 1983). Its use on the present occasion thus enabled a very clear assessment of what form of authoritarianism was being measured.
Also included in the questionnaire was a short form of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale (Ray, 1984b) - to act as a 'Lie scale'. All scales were completely balanced against acquiescent response set.
Because of the broad interest of the topic it was desired to go beyond the more usual sample of students in obtaining respondents to the survey. A variety of groups to which the second author had access were therefore used to construct a rough quota sample of the population of London and its surrounding areas. There were a total of 96 respondents, drawn from the following sources: hospital nurses and the patients; people attending further education classes; a group of unemployed men; shop floor stewards; post graduate students and volunteers for a television study.
The demographic profile of the resultant sample showed it to be somewhat younger and better educated than a true random sample of the London area would have been. This may be assessed by comparing the demographic statistics of the present sample with the sample described in Ray (1981b) -- a random cluster sample of the London conurbation with N of 100. The statistics for the present sample were: Mean age 29.23 years (S.D., 11.54), Education 3.01 (0.69), Sex 1.59 (.49) and occupation 1.79 (.40). Occupation was scored 1 = manual and 2 = non-manual. Sex was scored 1 = male and 2 = female. Education was scored 1 = primary, 2 = some secondary, 3 = full secondary, 4 = tertiary. The comparable statistics for the earlier random sample were: Age 39.33 (16.00), Education 2.33 (1.08), Sex 1.47 (.50) and Occupation 1.63 (.48).
The reliabilities (alpha) of the scales were as follows: Patriotism. 73, Attitude to authority .85, Conservatism .76, Racial Prejudice .77. The means (and S.D.s) were respectively 56.48 (9.74) 55.52 (9.87) 61.21 (11.60) and 23.85 (5.91). The items of the Conservatism and Patriotism scales were all responded to on a seven point scale while the Attitude to Authority and Prejudice scales were responded to on a five point agree/disagree scale. The lie scale items had three points for response and a scale 'alpha' of .67.
The intercorrelations between the scales are given in Table 1. It may be seen that Patriotism did indeed group in the expected way with conservatism and acceptance of authority but that all three attributes had virtually nothing to do with racism. There was a just barely significant (p < .05) correlation between acceptance of authority and racism but no significant correlation between racism and patriotism or racism and conservatism. The negligible correlation between the racism scale and the social desirability scale is however a warranty that dishonest responding could not have affected these results.
Table 1 Intercorrelations of attitude and demographic variables on 96 English respondents. Significant correlations (p <. 05) are asterisked.
Conservatism..... .43*.... .67*.... .18..... -.34*.... .15...... -.03.... -.29*.. -.21*... .39*
Patriotism....................... .53*.... .18...... .02..... -.14...... -.20*.. -.07.... -.19..... .30*
Att. Authority.............................. .23*.... .27*.... .15...... -.08.... -.16.... -.31*.... .28*
Att. W. Indians........................................ -.03..... .35*.... -.34*.... .07.... -.05..... .33*
Social Desirability.............................................. .04....... .08..... -.20*.. -.23*... .03
Age................................................................................ -.20*.... .24*... .16..... .08
Sex............................................................................................ -.17..... -.06... -.06
Education.............................................................................................. .27*... -.09
Sex is scored 1 = Male, 2 = Female. Vote is scored from Left to Right as 1 = Labour, 2 = Lib/SDP, 3 = Conservative, No preference = 2.
Table 2 International comparison of scores on the Ray/Heaven scale of attitude to blacks -- general population samples only
Sample....................................................Mean......S.D....Midpoint..S.D.s above midp.
Republic of South Africa
1982 Bloemfontein N = 95 (Doorstep).....22.44....3.86......20................+.63
1981 Bloemfontein N = 106 (Doorstep)...22.37....3.84......20................+.61
1979 Bloemfontein N = 91 (Postal)..........22.78....3.52......20................+.78
1978 Johannesburg N = 100 (Doorstep) 29.75....4.88......30................ -.05
Commonwealth of Australia
1974 La Perouse N = 68 (Doorstep)........30.58.....5.59......30...............+.10
1973 Redfern/Zetl. N = 178 (Doorstep)...28.59.....7.02......30............... -.20
1979 New S. Wales N= 140 (Postal)........29.14.....6.26......30............... -.13
United States of America
1979 Los Angeles N = 101 (Doorstep).....27.63.....6.72......30............... -.35
1983 London N = 96 (Quota).....................23.85.....5.91......30............. -1.03
The mean scores of the Los Angeles and Johannesburg samples (Ray, 1980a & 1980b) on the same attitude to Blacks scale as that used in the present study were 27.63 (6.72) and 29.75 (4.88). The British sample was, then, significantly less prejudiced than either of the other samples. As greater age went with greater prejudice, however, this result may partially have been accounted for by the abnormal youth of the present sample.
Cross-cultural comparisons of conservatism were rendered a little difficult by the fact that the conservatism scale has not always been administered with the same number of response options per item. This difficulty was coped with by expressing the mean score on the scale in all cases in terms of standard deviations above or below the scale's theoretical midpoint (i.e. number of items multiplied by the middling score for each item). The midpoint score on the present occasion was 56 (14 x 4) so the mean observed translates to .45 of an S.D. above the midpoint. For comparison, the Los Angeles, Bloemfontein, Sydney and Brisbane means on the same 14 item scale were: .67, 2.22, .45 and .38. Londoners are most like Sydney people and least like white South Africans as far as their degree of conservatism is concerned. It should be noted that the Sydney and Los Angeles means have been shown elsewhere not to be significantly different (Ray, 1984a) so it would seem that only the South African sample is particularly conservative. As Brisbane is the capital of an Australian State with particularly conservative political leadership at the present, the fact that its population was the least conservative of all those so far surveyed is also of some interest in its own right. As in the present British case, conservative political leadership may have more to do with the personality of the leader than with conservatism in those governed. (Cf. Ray, 1982). All samples other than the London one were random ones and fuller details of each may be obtained elsewhere (Ray and Heaven, 1984; Ray, 1983b & 1984a &c). It should be noted that the correlation between conservatism and education, although significant in the present London sample, was so low as to make the slight bias towards more educated people in the sample of very little importance as an influence on the conservatism scale mean observed.
The mean score on acceptance of authority observed with the present sample is of interest in the light of allegations by Ray (1983a) that Britain is a more authoritarian society than Australia. As the same attitude to authority scale has previously been administered to a quota sample of Australians living in Sydney that was demographically very similar to the present sample, some fairly precise comparisons become possible. The demographic profile of the 82 Sydney respondents was as follows: Mean age 32.56 (S.D. 13.79), Sex 1.48 (.50), Education 3.06 (.85), Occupation 1.76 (.42). Fuller methodological details can be obtained elsewhere (Ray and Lovejoy, 1983). The mean on the Attitude to Authority scale was 47.80 (S.D. 10.53) for the Sydney sample. The 't' for the difference between the Sydney and London means (5.01) is highly significant and indicates that Sydney people are much less acceptant of authority than are London people.
The results show very clearly that contemporary British patriotism does not fall into the Fascist model proposed by Adorno et al (1950). Indeed, to the extent that British patriotism is similar to patriotism elsewhere, it has been shown that the Adorno et al concept of 'ethnocentrism' is fundamentally flawed. Far from ethnic or national chauvinism being a concomitant of racism, it has in fact nothing to do with racism. Thinking well of one's own group does not imply that one therefore looks down on other groups. Some patriots like blacks, some dislike blacks and some are indifferent: ethnic chauvinism and racial prejudice are not two sides of the same coin.
The present results are very similar to those previously found in Australia (Ray, 1974) but are not necessarily in conflict with the findings by Adorno et al. Even aside from its one-way-wording problem (Altemeyer, 1981) the Adorno et al Patriotism scale as given in their Table 3 (IV) is very different from the one used on the present occasion. Indeed it is rather hard to see why the Adorno scale is said to measure patriotism at all. Thematically it seems indistinguishable from their 'F' scale and might be more accurately described as measuring some particularly brutal sort of conservatism. It is, then, basically irrelevant to studies of patriotism.
The high correlation observed between conservatism and acceptance of conventional institutional authority is consistent with all previous work on the subject (Adorno et al, 1950; Ray, 1973b, Rigby and Rump, 1979) and simply reflects the fact that acceptance of conventional institutional authority is an integral part of traditional conservative ideology (Ray, 1973a). It must not however be assumed from this that conservatives are likely to behave in more authoritarian ways. The relationship is confined to avowed attitudes. There is no overall relationship between conservative attitudes and authoritarian behaviour (Ray, 1982). This does not mean that for some people and for some groups of people ideology and behaviour are not consistent. Attitude/behaviour consistency and inconsistency are equally possible and the conditions under which each occurs are a matter of some research interest in their own right. Given the many instances collected by Ray (1983a) wherein British practices are more authoritarian than those of Australia or the United States, it must be said that the present findings show Britain today as being one of the cases wherein attitudes and behaviour are consistent. The British are more authoritarian both in behaviour and in outlook.
The present data however also show that this does not at all have the implications that it is popularly supposed to have. The British are not thereby also more racist. They are, in fact, exceptionally non-racist in attitudes. It should be pointed out that dislike of blacks has been shown to be at similar levels in Australia and in South Africa thus the present demonstration that British respondents were much less racist than either the white South African respondents or the white Los Angeles respondents does have greater breadth of implication than might at first appear. Racism does exist in Britain but not as much as in what should be other comparable countries. It is interesting that both Britain and Australia have immigration restrictions that have the effect of now excluding most would-be black or brown immigrants. Whereas the Australian government's policy was for long quite proudly referred to as 'the White Australia policy', the British government has never officially admitted that the object of its restrictions is the exclusion of blacks. The difference between the two countries, it would appear, is primarily attitudinal rather than in behaviour.
One question that the present survey cannot clearly answer is whether the success of Mrs. Thatcher in the Falklands may have affected the correlates of patriotism. As she is an indubitably conservative figure, her actions may have attracted patriots both to vote conservative and to have more respect for conservatism generally. Some support for the view that this might have been an influence on the present findings (the data for which were gathered in late 1983) is the fact that Australian patriotism is only weakly related to social conservatism (r = .21) and F scale authoritarianism (.24) and is not at all related to economic conservatism or to voting. The data for these findings (Ray, 1981a) were gathered in 1974 so do not at all enable a close comparison with the British situation but it may nonetheless be worth noting that the Australian respondents did seem to be even more patriotic than the British. The 1983 British mean on the Patriotism scale was .78 of an S.D. above the scale midpoint but the 1974 Australian mean was 1.12 S.D.s above the scale midpoint. (For this comparison only the 11 items of the British Patriotism scale were used that corresponded best to the 11 item Australian Patriotism scale). It could thus be argued that the virtual universality of patriotism in Australia reduces all its correlations with other variables. Certainly it is clear that what is found concerning British patriotism cannot automatically be generalized even to countries which might seem fairly similar to Britain in many ways.
Nonetheless, with both Australian and British research now showing attitude to blacks and patriotism to be unrelated it must be stressed that the concept of 'ethnocentrism' is seriously called into question. If thinking well of one's own society does not imply thinking ill of outgroups, the many extant scales which purport to measure ethnocentrism may be measuring an entirely artificial construct.
1. See the August 1972 Harris Public Opinion poll conducted by the Daily Express newspaper.
ADORNO, T.W., FRENKEL-BRUNSWIK, E., LEVINSON, D.J. and SANFORD, R.N. The authoritarian personality N.Y.: Harper, 1950.
ALTEMEYER, R.A. Right-wing authoritarianism Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1981.
DOOB, L.W. Patriotism and nationalism: their psychological foundations N. Haven: Yale University Press, 1964.
HEAVEN, P.C.L. and MOERDYK, A. 'Prejudice revisited: a pilot study using Ray's scale'. J. Behav. Sci. 1977, 2, 217-20.
RAY, J.J. (1973) 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. (1973b) Dogmatism in relation to sub-types of conservatism: Some Australian data. European J. Social Psychology 3, 221-232.
RAY, J.J. (1974) Are racists ethnocentric? Ch. 46 in Ray, J.J. 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. (1980a) Racism and authoritarianism among white South Africans. Journal of Social Psychology, 110, 29-37.
RAY, J.J. (1980b) Authoritarianism in California 30 years later -- with some cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Social Psychology, 111, 9-17.
RAY, J.J. (1981a) The new Australian nationalism. Quadrant, 25(1-2), 60-62.
RAY, J.J. (1981b) English attitudes to Scottish nationalism. Journal of Social Psychology, 115, 141-142.
RAY, J.J. (1982) Climate and conservatism in Australia. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 297-298.
RAY, J.J. (1983) Is Britain an authoritarian society? In: V.K. Kool J.J. Ray (eds.) Authoritarianism across cultures Bombay, India:
RAY, J.J. (1983b) A scale to measure conservatism of American public opinion. Journal of Social Psychology 119, 293-294.
RAY, J.J. (1984a) Achievement motivation as a source of racism, conservatism and authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology 123, 21-28
RAY, J.J. (1984b) The reliability of short social desirability scales. Journal of Social Psychology, 123, 133-134.
RAY, J.J. (1985) Defective validity in the Altemeyer authoritarianism scale. Journal of Social Psychology 125, 271-272.
RAY, J.J. & Heaven, P.C. L. (1984) Conservatism and authoritarianism among urban Afrikaners. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 163-170.
Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.
RIGBY, K. `A concise scale for the measurement of attitudes towards institutional authority'. Australian J. Psychol. 1982, 34, 195-204.
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SUMNER, W.G. Folkways Boston: Ginn, 1906.
It may be worth noting that the much more anti-authority attitudes of Australians do NOT imply an indulgent attitude towards crime. See Ray (1981). The data to examine it are no longer available, but much of the gap between Australian and English attitudes could well be explained by the unusually reverential attitude that the English have towards their police.
Ray, J.J. (1981) Is the Ned Kelly syndrome dead? Some Australian data on attitudes to shoplifting. Australian & New Zealand J. Criminology 14, 249-252.
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