Acta Politica

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 612–634 | Cite as

Authoritarianism and political choice in France

  • Pavlos VasilopoulosEmail author
  • Romain Lachat
Original Article


Authoritarianism is a key concept in personality psychology, with a strong impact on political behavior in the United States. Yet, it has rarely been included in studies of political behavior in Europe. Drawing on a nationwide representative sample of the French electorate, we assess the demographic correlates of authoritarianism, as well as its impact on ethnic intolerance, economic conservatism, and propensity to vote for the four major French political parties. Results suggest that authoritarianism is positively associated with both intolerance and economic conservatism. Moreover, there is a strong and positive impact of authoritarianism on the propensity to vote for the far right Front National. Finally, contrary to the common left-wing authoritarianism thesis, we find a significant and negative association between authoritarianism and voting for the far left in France, both with and without taking attitudinal factors into account. These findings extend our understanding of the personality trait of authoritarianism and its impact on vote choice and political attitudes.


Authoritarianism Voting choice Political issues France 


  1. Adorno, T.W., E. Frenkel-Brunswik, D.J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford. 1950. The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  2. Aichholzer, J., and M. Zandonella. 2016. Psychological bases of support for radical right parties. Personality and Individual Differences 96: 185–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Altemeyer, B. 1981. Right-wing authoritarianism. Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.Google Scholar
  4. Altemeyer, B. 1988. Enemies of freedom: Understanding right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  5. Altemeyer, B. 1996. The authoritarian specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Altemeyer, B. 1998. The other “authoritarian personality”. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 30: 47–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandt, M.J., and P.J. Henry. 2012. Gender inequality and gender differences in authoritarianism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38 (10): 1301–1315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brandt, M.J., and C. Reyna. 2014. To love or hate thy neighbor: The role of authoritarianism and traditionalism in explaining the link between fundamentalism and racial prejudice. Political Psychology 35 (2): 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, R. 1965. The authoritarian personality and the organization of attitudes. In Social psychology, ed. R. Brown, 477–546. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Canetti-Nisim, D. 2004. The effect of religiosity on endorsement of democratic values: The mediating influence of authoritarianism. Political Behavior 26 (4): 377–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carney, D.R., J.T. Jost, S.D. Gosling, and J. Potter. 2008. The secret lives of liberals and conservatives: Personality profiles, interaction styles, and the things they leave behind. Political Psychology 29 (6): 807–840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohrs, J.C. 2013. Threat and authoritarianism: Some theoretical and methodological comments. International Journal of Psychology 48(1): 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dekker, P., and P. Ester. 1987. Working-class authoritarianism: A re-examination of the Lipset thesis. European Journal of Political Research 15 (4): 395–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Regt, S., D. Mortelmans, and T. Smits. 2011. Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 44 (4): 299–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duckitt, J. 1992. Education and authoritarianism among English-and Afrikaans-speaking White South Africans. The Journal of social psychology 132 (6): 701–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dunn, K. 2015. Preference for radical right-wing populist parties among exclusive-nationalists and authoritarians. Party Politics 21 (3): 367–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans, G., A. Heath, and M. Lalljee. 1996. Measuring left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values in the British electorate. British Journal of Sociology 47 (1): 93–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eysenck, H.J. 1954. The science of personality: Nomothetic. Psychological Review 61 (5): 339–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Federico, C.M., E.L. Fisher, and G. Deason. 2011. Expertise and the ideological consequences of the authoritarian predisposition. Public opinion quarterly 75 (4): 686–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feldman, Stanley. 2013. Comments on: Authoritarianism in social context: The role of threat. International Journal of Psychology 48 (1): 55–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Feldman, S. 2003. Enforcing social conformity: A theory of authoritarianism. Political Psychology 21: 41–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Feldman, S., and C. Johnston. 2014. Understanding the determinants of political ideology: Implications of structural complexity. Political Psychology 35 (3): 337–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Feldman, S., and K. Stenner. 1997. Perceived threat and authoritarianism. Political Psychology 18 (4): 741–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Flanagan, S.C. 1987. Value change in industrial society. American Political Science Review 81 (4): 1303–1319.Google Scholar
  25. Flanagan, S.C., and A.R. Lee. 2003. The New politics, culture wars, and the authoritarian-libertarian value change in advanced industrial democracies. Comparative Political Studies 36 (3): 235–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grabb, E.G. 1979. Working-class authoritarianism and tolerance of outgroups: A reassessment. Public Opinion Quarterly 43 (1): 36–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Halikiopoulou, D., K. Nanou, and S. Vasilopoulou. 2012. The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism. European journal of political research 51 (4): 504–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hamilton, V.L., J. Sanders, and S.J. McKearney. 1995. Orientations toward authority in an authoritarian state: Moscow in 1990. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21 (4): 356–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Henry, P.J. 2011. The role of stigma in understanding ethnicity differences in authoritarianism. Political Psychology 32 (3): 419–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hetherington, M.J., and J.D. Weiler. 2009. Authoritarianism and polarization in American politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hetherington, M. J., and J.D. Weiler. 2015. Authoritarianism and polarization in American politics, still? In American gridlock: The sources, character, and impact of polarization, eds. J.A. Thurber, and A. Yoshinaka, pp. 86–112.Google Scholar
  32. Hetherington, M.J., and E. Suhay. 2011. Authoritarianism, threat, and Americans’ support for the war on terror. American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 546–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hunsberger, B. 1995. Religion and prejudice: The role of religious fundamentalism, quest, and right-wing authoritarianism. Journal of Social Issues 51 (2): 113–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Inglehart, R., 1997. Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Johnston, C.D., and J. Wronski. 2015. Personality dispositions and political preferences across hard and easy issues. Political Psychology 36 (1): 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jost, J.T., C.M. Federico, and J.L. Napier. 2009. Political ideology: Its structure, functions, and elective affinities. Annual Review of Psychology 60: 307–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jost, J.T., J. Glaser, A.W. Kruglanski, and F.J. Sulloway. 2003. Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin 129 (3): 339–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jost, J.T., B.A. Nosek, and S.D. Gosling. 2008. Ideology: Its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science 3 (2): 126–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kohn, M.L., and C. Schooler. 1983. Work and personality: An inquiry into the impact of social stratification. Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar
  40. Lipset, S.M. 1960. Political man: The social bases of politics. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  41. Lubbers, M. and P. Scheepers. 2002. French Front National voting: A micro and macro perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies 25 (1): 120–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Martin, J.G. 1964. The tolerant personality. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Mayer, N. 2013. From Jean-Marie to Marine Le Pen: Electoral change on the far right. Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 160–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mayer, N. 2014. The electoral impact of the crisis on the French working class: More to the Right? In Mass politics in tough times, ed. N. Bermeo, and L. Bartels, 266–296. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mayer, N., G. Michelat, T. Vitale and V. Tiberj. 2016. Le retour inattendu de la tolérance. In La lutte contre le racisme, l’antisémitisme et la xénophobie. Année 2015, ed. CNCDH. Paris: La Documentation française, pp. 285–293.Google Scholar
  46. Mayer, N., and P. Perrineau. 1992. Why do they vote for Le Pen? European Journal of Political Research 22 (1): 123–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McCleary, D.F., C.C. Quillivan, L.N. Foster, and R.L. Williams. 2011. Meta-analysis of correlational relationships between perspectives of truth in religion and major psychological constructs. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 3 (3): 163–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McFarland, S.G. and S. Adelson. 1996. An omnibus study of personality, values, and prejudice. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology; 13–16 July, Vancouver, Canada.Google Scholar
  49. Napier, J.L., and J.T. Jost. 2008. The “Antidemocratic Personality” revisited: A cross-national investigation of working-class authoritarianism. Journal of Social Issues 64 (3): 595–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Osborne, D., and C.G. Sibley. 2014. Endorsement of system-justifying beliefs strengthens the relationship between church attendance and Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 17 (4): 542–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Perrineau, P. 2016. Le Gaucho-lepénisme: des factures dans la transmission des valeurs et les orientations politiques ? In Temps et Politique, ed. A. Muxel. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.Google Scholar
  52. Reynié, D. 2005. Le vertige social-nationaliste: La gauche du Non et le référendum de 2005. Paris: Table Ronde.Google Scholar
  53. Rokeach, M. 1960. The open and closed mind. New York: Basic books.Google Scholar
  54. Scheepers, P., A. Felling, and J. Peters. 1990. Social conditions, authoritarianism and ethnocentrism: A theoretical model of the early Frankfurt School updated and tested. European Sociological Review 6: 15–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shils, E.A. 1954. Authoritarianism: Right and left. In Studies in the scope and the method of the authoritarian personality, ed. R. Christie, and M. Jahoda. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  56. Stenner, K. 2005. The authoritarian dynamic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stenner, K. 2009. Three kinds of “conservatism”. Psychological Inquiry 20 (2–3): 142–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stone, W.F. 1980. The myth of left-wing authoritarianism. Political Psychology 2 (3–4): 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stubager, R. 2008. Education effects on authoritarian-libertarian values: A question of socialization. British Journal of Sociology 59 (2): 327–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tilley, J.R. 2005. Libertarian-authoritarian value change in Britain, 1974–2001. Political Studies 53(2): 442–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tillman, E.R. 2016. Authoritarianism and support for populist radical right parties. Paper presented at the 2016 American Political Science Association meeting, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  62. Van der Eijk, C., W. Van der Brug, M. Kroh, and M. Franklin. 2006. Rethinking the dependent variable in voting behavior: On the measurement and analysis of electoral utilities. Electoral Studies 25 (3): 424–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vasilopoulos, P., L. Beaudonnet, and B. Cautrès. 2015. A red letter day: Investigating the renaissance of the French far left in the 2012 presidential election. French Politics 13 (2): 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Visser, M., M. Lubbers, G. Kraaykamp, and E. Jaspers. 2014. Support for radical left ideologies in Europe. European journal of political research 53 (3): 541–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cevipof, Sciences PoParisFrance

Personalised recommendations