Political Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1984, pp. 227-236.


John J. Ray

The University of New South Wales, Australia

Although right-wing authoritarian attitudes as measured by the F scale always predict racism (E), this could be due to any one of several components built into the scale by its authors. Another scale designed to measure much the same thing (the "A" scale) has been found in a sample of army conscripts, not to predict ethnocentrism. It was therefore readministered to a random Australian sample or 99 Sydney people together with a derivative scale (the "AA" scale), a balanced F scale, and an E scale. The "A" scale showed psychometric weaknesses, but, when revised to eliminate these, again failed to predict E. The balanced F scale correlated 0.48 with E. Political party preference (vote) did not predict E. On both behavioral (vote) and attitudinal ("A"-scale) criteria, then, it was concluded that both anti-authoritarian leftists and pro-authoritarian rightists are equally likely to be racists.

KEY WORDS: racism; left wing; ethnocentrism; authoritarianism; conservatism.


One of the most durable relationships in social psychology is the positive correlation between the California F scale and the racist attitudes (Adorno et al., 1950). No matter what one controls for, the relationship always seems to emerge (Ray, 1980a, b, 1981). Sadly, however, what the F scale itself measures is unclear. The "F" is for "Fascist" yet, from the title of the Adorno et al. book, the scale is generally referred to as a measure of "authoritarianism." Additionally, the scale is so heavily laden with conservative ideology (Shils, 1954) that it has been argued that it measures nothing but conservatism (Ray, 1973a). It also has a particularly paranoid and misanthropic flavor so one wonders just what aspect of the scale leads to its correlation with E (ethnocentrism). Is it conservatism, authoritarianism, paranoia, misanthropy, rigidity, or some particular combination of these attributes? The simple solution suggested by Adorno et al. -- that all these things go together anyhow -- cannot, unfortunately, any longer be accepted. Brown (1964) has shown that not even different types of rigidity go together; Ray (1976) has shown that not even authoritarian attitudes and authoritarian personality go together; and the suggestion that only conservatives can be authoritarian was from the beginning rather extraordinary (Shils, 1954; Ray, 1983b).

In such circumstances, some simpler and more straightforward measure of authoritarianism seems called for. If a scale can be devised that is not laden with a whole host of other connotations, it would be a considerable step toward sorting out just what variables in the Adorno tradition are involved with racism. Such a scale does exist. The Ray (1972a) "A" scale was devised to measure a concept of authoritarianism defined as "A desire for a form of social organization similar to military institutions and procedures-with the restriction of liberty, lack of participation in decision-making, lack of individual responsibility, acceptance of aggression and clarity of role definitions that this implies." It thus includes, but is not limited to, simple acceptance of authority. This definition was arrived at with the characteristics in mind that might reasonably be expected of a person well adapted in an authoritarian environment (such as the army). Such characteristics could also be expressed in the form of a short list of costs and gains. Thus:


1. Restrictions of liberty.....................1. Clarity of role and custom definitions
2. Lack of participation in deci- .........2. Release from individual respon-
3. Acceptance of aggression..............3. Acceptance of aggression
towards the self .......................................toward others
4. Flexibility.........................................4. Order

Authoritarianism was, in other words, conceived as being much like many other attributes -- as having both advantages and disadvantages to the person. To some the value of the gains would outweigh the costs and vice versa. To the extreme anti-authoritarian, none of the gains would be any gain at all.

The scale that arose out of this conceptualization was initially constructed on a sample of 114 introductory psychology students at the University of Sydney. Its coefficient alpha reliability was 0.85, it was balanced against acquiescence, and the correlation between its positively and negatively scored halves was -0.61 (before reversals). Henceforth, such a statistic will be referred to as "rPN ". The items of the scale glorified the Army; Mussolini, punctuality, discipline, war, and obedience. They denigrated efficiency, rules, military uniforms, patriotism, and conformity. The latter were, of course, the "negative" items. The scale correlated 0.73 with the Eysenck (1954) Radicalism scale, 0.36 with the Rokeach (1960) Dogmatism scale, and 0.48 with conservatism of political party choice. As far as its validity characteristics among students were concerned, therefore, it might just as well have been regarded as a scale of conservatism. Even its 0.66 correlation with the F scale is consistent with such an interpretation.

A further study with 52 students was therefore carried out. In this study peer ratings were obtained of each student who completed the scale. High authoritarians on the "A" scale were seen by their peers as people who "Tend to follow instructions without critical thought" (r = 0.33) and who "Always modify their behavior to fit the circumstances of the situation." The correlation coefficient for this latter relationship was fairly high as such correlations go -- 0.47-- so there can be no doubt that this particular scale of authoritarianism does relate to behavior. Note, however, that what the correlation shows is that the authoritarian is highly likely to be flexible -- quite the opposite of what Adorno et al. (1950) propose. Authoritarians were shown to be both very obedient and very flexible. While such a combination of attributes might at first seem wrong, reflection will surely indicate that unfailing obedience does in fact require great flexibility. Remember the Western Moscow-line Communists of 1941 who suddenly had to change from treating Hitler as an ally and friend to treating him as the great enemy? The true authoritarian has to be flexible enough to turn around and march in the opposite direction when required. Compare also Lamberth et al. (1982).

In other validity studies, the "A" scale was found to correlate positively with a tendency to make careful differentiations among concepts related to authority or its exercise and to be negatively correlated with acceptance of innovation.

The most interesting finding with the "A" scale, however, was its relationship with E. This was tested on a group of Australian Army conscripts selected by a random birth-date ballot procedure so they were much more representative of the population at large in terms of occupational, educational, and intellectual variables than the usual sample of students would have been. The E scale used was a short form of the Beswick and Hills (1969) "Australian Ethnocentrism scale" and mostly concerned attitude toward Asians. Australians have a traditional fear of Asians. The correlation between the two scales was nonsignificant. When fairly defined and expressed in a reasonably intelligent and modern sort of way, authoritarian attitudes do not predict ethnocentrism.

As the findings with the "A" scale are so very deviant from those with the F scale, some replication seems necessary. In particular, could the finding have had something to do with the fact that the subjects were army conscripts? The conscripts were tested during the first week of their training to minimize any influence that the institution might have on their attitudes, but the possibility that being in the army might have some distorting effect on one's attitude to authority certainly cannot be discarded out of hand. A test of the relationship between "A" and E on a representative general population sample is clearly called for.


A questionnaire was made up to include not only the "A" scale but also an "AA" scale -- which, although a derivative of the "A" scale, had been constructed using an army sample and had been extensively used and well validated against peer rating and other criteria in its own right (Ray, 1971 a, I976). It was used on this occasion in its 20-item short form. The "AA" scale had actually shown a negative relationship to E among conscripts, i.e., it showed authoritarians as racially tolerant. This relationship also seemed in great need of replication. For purposes of comparison, the short form of the Balanced F scale (BF) was also included (Ray, 1972b, I979). The E scale was as used previously (Ray, 1972a) except that one extra item concerning Vietnamese refugees was added because of its topicality. The items are given in an appendix. Although the scale items mention four different ethnic groups, there is no claim that such a short scale covers all current racial issues in Australia. Insofar as racial attitudes generalize to all outgroups regardless of their identity [a central claim of Adorno et al. (I950)], this should not impede a test of the Adorno et al. theory. As racial attitudes are known to be often unrelated to discriminatory behavior (La Piere, 1934; Ray, 1971b, 1976), no attempt has been made to validate either this scale or its antecedent scale against behavior. One must stress, therefore, that the present study concerns attitudes only.

The questionnaire was administered to a random doorstep cluster sample of 99 people living in the Sydney metropolitan area. All subjects were interviewed in their homes by an experienced interviewer. The N of 99 was chosen because it enables correlations explaining as little as 4% of the variance to be shown as significant at the < 0.05 level. Sydney is a city of 3 million people of predominantly British origin.


The coefficient alpha reliabiIities were 0.74 for both the "A" and "AA" scales and 0.86 for the E scale. This was a surprisingly good result considering that neither had been constructed on a general population sample. There are, however, times when "alpha" is misleading as a guide to internal consistency, particularly when a test is comprised of several independent factors which are highly internally consistent within themselves. Such a circumstance often arises when there is a strong acquiescence bias in responses to a balanced scale. This can cause both halves of a scale to be highly internally consistent but still essentially unrelated to one another. Where this happens (i.e., where the rPN is nonsignificant), the present author has often argued that the scale lacks an elementary requirement for construct validity (Ray, 1983a; Ray and Pratt, 1979). The rs were as follows: BF, 0.37; A, 0.18; AA, 0.2I. On this criterion, then, only the BF scale can be considered really satisfactory. The rPN for the "A" scale is nonsignificant and for the "AA" scale is only just significant (where r = 0.20 gives significance at the < 0.05 level). This psychometric problem with the "A" and "AA" scales was also shown by the fact that many items had negligible correlations (after overlap correction) with their respective scale totals and by the fact that when the two (balanced) scales were scored for acquiescence (i.e., without reverse-scoring any items) quite high reliabilities (alpha) were observed -- 0.60 and 0.58, respectively. This indicated a strong acquiescence effect on the two scales.

It was clear, therefore, that if further analyses were to proceed, the "A" scale would have to be improved psychometrically. This was done by deleting from the original 24-item scale 11 unsatisfactory items and replacing them by 4 items from the "AA" scale and 3 items from the "BF" scale. This gave a revised 20-item scale, balanced against acquiescence, with an "alpha" of 0.77 and an rPN of - 0.38. It correlated 0.90 with the original "A" scale so most of what was true of the original "A" scale should also be true of the revised scale. The revised scale, then, was considered psychometrically satisfactory. While the alpha could ideally have been higher, it should be noted that acquiescence bias works to deflate the internal consistency of balanced scales while inflating the internal consistency of one-way-worded scales. If there is any acquiescence bias present at all, therefore, balanced scales will always be at a disadvantage as far as "alpha" is concerned.

The correlation between the positively and the negatively worded ethnocentrism items was -0.67 so this scale was on all criteria highly satisfactory.

The correlations with ethnocentrism of the three authoritarianism scales having significant rPNs were: BF 0.48, AA 0.20, Revised "A" 0.16. The first is highly significant, the second is of' borderline significance, and the latter is nonsignificant. The items of the revised "A" scale are given in an appendix. The correIations of the four scales with conservatism of Australian political party preferences were BF, 0.19; "AA," 0.32; Revised "A," .29; E, 0.0. Only the middle two are significant.

One possible explanation of the poor prediction of E by the "A" and "AA" scales is that ethnocentrism (fear and dislike of Asians) was so high among the sample that most differences between respondents were "washed out." The reverse is the truth. The mean score on the E scale was almost exactly on the theoretical midpoint of the scale -- indicating that Australians are almost exactly as likely to be pro-Asian as anti-Asian. These should be ideal conditions for demonstrating correlation.

Both the "A" and "AA" scales correlated significantly with age (0.28 and 0.23) but the "BF" and Revised "A" scale did not. No authoritarianism scale significantly predicted sex or occupation.


The present finding that right-wing authoritarians are not particularly racist in attitudes provides a rather belated counterpart in psychological research to the general sociological observations by Shils (1954) to the effect that authoritarianism is equally likely to be found on the Left and the Right of politics. The same has been shown to be true for racism. Thus while there is no doubt that Hitler was antisemitic, so too are the modern-day Communist rulers of eastern Europe. Ethnocentrism may be present on the political Right but it is not confined to it. Any theory that links ethnocentrism with the political Right alone is therefore fundamentally faulty. Note also that if we assess conservatism behaviorally (i.e., by the political party people prefer at election time) the present results show that conservatives are no more ethnocentric than leftists. On both behavioral (vote) and attitudinal ("A"-scale) criteria, then, half of all racists are leftists. Neither ideology nor vote predict racism.

The present work cannot of course exclude the possibility that there may be other types of conservative ideology that do predispose toward racism. What has been shown is that the particular type of conservative ideology which is said to predict racism (i.e., authoritarian conservatism) does not. When ideology is measured in a fairly straightforward way, anti-authoritarian leftists and pro-authoritarian rightists are equally likely to be racists.

It should also be noted from the present results that the F scale once again failed to predict conservatism of vote (Ray, I973b; Hanson, 1975). It is invalid, then, as a predictor not only of authoritarian behavior (Ray, 1976; Ray and Lovejoy, 1983) but also of conservative politics: a truly peculiar measure of authoritarian conservatism! Note the implication that half of all authoritarians in the F-scale sense (paranoid misanthropes?) are in fact leftists as far as their political party preference is concerned. The one scale that did provide a good prediction of ethnocentrism measured something that is equally common among rightists and leftists!

There is of course a sense in which it may be unfair to refer to the supporters of mainstream social democratic parties as "leftists." It could be argued that we live in a world of consensus politics and that any mainstream party will really be centrist. Perhaps "leftist" should be reserved for more revolutionary socialists. The present paper, however, is concerned with the community at large so what has been shown is that those who vote for "Left-leaning" parties are no less racist in attitudes than those who vote for "Right-leaning" parties. What characterizes those who support minor parties must be left to later research.


The Revised "A" Scale:

Items marked "R" are scored: "Strongly Agree" = 1; "Agree" = 2; "Not sure" = 3; "Disagree" = 4; "Strongly Disagree" = 5. The remainder are scored 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 for the same answers, respectively. With 99 randomly selected respondents, the mean was 56.83 (SD = 9.I3).

1. R/ Human beings are more important than efficiency.
2. R/ People should be guided more by their feelings and less by the rules.
3. R/ Individual freedom is a basic human right.
4. R/ There is always a better alternative for nations to take rather than going to war.
5. R/ There is far too much regimentation of people nowadays.
6. War is a purifying force.
7. You know where you are going when you have an order to obey.
8. R/ People should not be expected to conform as much as they are today.
9. R/ Efficiency and speed are not as important as letting everyone have their say in making a decision.
10. People who say we don't have enough freedom here in Australia don't know what they are talking about.
11. I don't mind that other people decide what I am to do or advise me how to do it.
12. R/ I disagree with what the Army stands for.
13. R/ If the Army allowed more room for individuality, it might be a better institution.
14. School- children should have plenty of discipline.
15. One of the first things children should be taught is to obey their parents at all times.
16. It is a duty to bring your children up properly.
17. Children should not answer back to their parents.
18. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas but as they grow up they should get over them and settle down.
19. R/ Homosexuality between consenting adults may be disagreeable but it should not be regarded as a crime.
20. Homosexuals are hardly better than sex criminals and ought to be severely punished.


The "E" Scale

1. R/ Allowing educated Asians to immigrate benefits Australian society.
2. The White Australia policy is a good policy because it keeps Australia white.
3. We must be careful not to let too many Asians into the country or they'll take over the place.
4. R/ Asians should be allowed to migrate to Australia.
5. R/ The Japanese are a very productive people and should be allowed to settle in Australia.
6. I would not like an Aborigine to be my boss.
7. Australia has now taken just about as many Vietnamese refugees as it can handle.


Adorno, T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D. J., and Sanford, R. N. (1950). The Authoritarian Personality, Harper, New York.

Beswick, D. G., and Hills, M. D. (I969). An Australian ethnocentrism scale. Australian J. Psycho! 21: 211-226.

Brown, R. (I964). Social Psychology, Free Press, New York.

Eysenck, H. J. (1954). Routledge, London.

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

Lamberth, J., Krieger, E., and Shay, S. (1982). Juror decision making: A case of attitude change mediated by authoritarianism. J. Res. Personality 16: 419-434.

La Piere, R. (1934). Attitudes and actions. Social Forces 13: 230-237.

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

Ray, J.J. (1971) Ethnocentrism: Attitudes and behaviour. Australian Quarterly, 43, 89-97.

Ray, J. J. (1972a). Non-ethnocentric authoritarianism. Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology, 8: 96-102.

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

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

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

Ray, J.J. (1979) A short balanced F scale. Journal of Social Psychology, 109, 309-310.

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. (1981) Explaining Australian attitudes towards Aborigines Ethnic & Racial Studies 4, 348-352.

Ray, J.J. (1983a) Defective validity of the Machiavellianism scale. Journal of Social Psychology 119, 291-292.

Ray, J.J. (1983b). Half of all authoritarians are Left-wing: A reply to Eysenck and Stone. Political Psychology, 4, 139-144.

Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.

Ray, J.J. & Pratt, G.J. (1979) Is the influence of acquiescence on "catchphrase" type attitude scale items not so mythical after all? Australian Journal of Psychology 31, 73-78.

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

Shils, E. A. (1954). Authoritarianism: Right and Left. In Christie, R., and Jahoda, M. (eds.), Studies in the Scope and Method of "The Authoritarian Personality," Free Press, Glencoe, Ill.


1). The article above has to be seen in the context of its times. Leftism has always been and still is very authoritarian in practice. As Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx's co-author) put it: "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists."

And all the great tyrannies of recent history -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and North Korea's Kim dynasty -- have ruled in the name of socialism.

Nor do Americans need to go overseas for examples of Leftist authoritarianism. The much-admired FDR was himself an admirer of Mussolini and his attempts to completely reorganize American business and industry along collectivist lines are well known. And his "Progressive" precursors in TR and Woodrow Wilson appear in fact to have been major influences on the development of European Fascism. See here for a full exposition of that.

Yet, despite all that, during the second half of the 20th century, Leftists everywhere in the Western world customarily voiced a great in-principle antipathy to authority of any sort. There was a huge gap between their professed general attitudes and the form of government that they supported politically. They would always apologize for the Soviet tyranny while it existed and to this day the Castro tyranny in Cuba attracts much admiring mention from the American Left. This gap was noted early on in an article by Shils (1954) that I mentioned above -- and it appears to persist to this day. That the gap is some form of psychological denial has to be an obvious speculation -- whether at the conscious or the unconscious level.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have always seen some need for, and some virtue in, various forms of authority. Conservatives are not libertarians. Conservatives have however only ever embraced LIMITED authority. Their high regard for individual liberty has always placed limits on what authority they will support. And that is true both in their expressed general attitudes and the policies and form of the governments that they support politically. Their attitudes and behaviour are consistent.

So, as a result of that, we see in the research referred to above the paradox that there was a weak tendency for conservatives to endorse more pro-authority statements than Leftists did -- even though Leftists are the great supporters of authoritarianism in real life.

2). I should perhaps have noted in the article above that there have even been some studies using versions of the old F scale that showed no correlation between authoritarianism and racism. Of particular interest is a high-quality Canadian study by Sutherland & Tanenbaum (1980). They too regarded the F scale as overinclusive and selected out only those items in it that dealt with authoritarian submission. They applied these items to a large general population sample and found that they did NOT predict racism or political party preference. They did however find one ideological differences between those low and high on submission -- "The only difference is with regard to civil disobedience, with the authoritarian followers adhering to the letter of the law less rigidly". This latter finding ties in well with the precursor article to this one (Ray, 1972), that also found authoritarians to be less rigid.

So clearly, it is the some secondary feature of the F scale (such as its paranoid element) that gives rise to the prediction of racism. Attitude to authority as such has nothing to do with racism.

3). A study using students as subjects by McAbee & Cafferty (1982) is obviously of much less interest but may nonetheless be worth mentioning. They used the Berkowitz & Wolkon forced-choice version of the F scale. Such a scale is not as straightforward as the balanced F scale used above (See Ray, 1984) but it does ensure that meaningless acquiescence could have no systematic effect. They studied punitiveness towards crime rather than racism but they did find that authoritarians were NOT more punitive towards blacks than towards whites.

4). 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.

References for the addenda

McAbee, T.A. & Cafferty, T.P. (1982) Degree of prescribed punishment as a function of subjects' authoritarianism and offenders' race and social status. Psychological Reports, 50, 651-654.

Ray, J. J. (1972). Non-ethnocentric authoritarianism. Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology, 8: 96-102.

Ray, J.J. (1984) Alternatives to the F scale in the measurement of authoritarianism: A catalog. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 105-119.

Shils, E.A. (1954) Authoritarianism: Right and Left. In: R. Christie & M. Jahoda (Eds.) "Studies in the scope and method of "The authoritarian personality". Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

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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