The Authoritarian Dynamic During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Effects on Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Todd K Hartman, Thomas VA Stocks, Ryan McKay, Jilly Gibson Miller, Liat Levita, Anton P Martinez, Liam Mason, Orla McBride, Jamie Murphy, M Shevlin, K Bennett, Phillip Hyland, T Karatzias, Frederique Vallieres, Richard Bentall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Research has demonstrated that situational factors such as perceived threats to the social order activate latent authoritarianism. The deadly COVID-19 pandemic presents a rare opportunity to test whether existential threat stemming from an indiscriminate virus moderates the relationship between authoritarianism and political attitudes toward the nation and out-groups. Using data from two large nationally representative samples of adults in the United Kingdom (N = 2,025) and Republic of Ireland (N = 1,041) collected during the initial phases of strict lockdown measures in both countries, we find that the associations between right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and (1) nationalism and (2) anti-immigrant attitudes are conditional on levels of perceived threat. As anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic increases, so too does the effect of RWA on those political outcomes. Thus, it appears that existential threats to humanity from the COVID-19 pandemic moderate expressions of authoritarianism in society.

Original languageEnglish
Journalsocial psychological and personality science
Early online date11 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jan 2021


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • threat
  • political attitudes
  • Authoritarianism
  • Nationalism
  • COVID-19
  • authoritarianism
  • immigration
  • social dominance orientation
  • nationalism
  • pandemic


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