The Volatility of Political Choices: The Role of Conservatism and Context / by Flavio Azevedo

In the last decades, the far right’s increasing political clout in numerous western societies has become subject of international concern – especially after 2008 protracted global economic crisis. In order to gain insight into this socio-political phenomenon, the present article sets out to investigate the interplay between situational and dispositional factors affecting political choices. Specifically, does the perception of environmental cues and one’s conservatism interact in determining the volatility of one’s political choices? To answer this question, 202 participants took part in a pretest-posttest control group experiment, wherein environmental cues were manipulated as to elicit negative, uncertain and positive perceptions of contexts. Results show that when context is perceived as positive ensuing political choices become more stable while uncertain and negative perceptions were associated with increasing volatile choices. Moreover, conservatism was shown to moderate the de-stabilizing effects of negative and uncertain contexts on the stability of political choices, which is to say, across different contexts the more conservative one is, the more stable one’s political choices. These results seem to suggest that the electoral success of far-right parties can be explained, at least in part, by an asymmetric effect of environmental cues (or situational evaluation) on the voters’ motivations to maintain political choices, from which non-conservatives seem to be particularly afflicted. Findings complement the literature by providing political-psychological explanations as to why the far-right rises during periods of societal crisis.

[Stage: adapting M.Sc. thesis to article format]