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Scarily Coming To The Centre: Political Centrism As An Effect Of Mortality Salience And A Need For Closure.
Carlos Alberto Rivera García.
University of Essex.
Three studies assessed the relationship between need for closure (NFC; Kruglanski, Webster, & Klem, 1993) and evaluations of political ideology changes, as a function of mortality salience (MS). Based on terror management theory (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) and previous research (e.g., Cozzolino, 2006; Jost et al., 2003), we hypothesized that abstract reminders of death would activate the facet of NFC that seeks group consensus and stability (as opposed to deviation and persuasion). Following an MS or control induction, 156 participants evaluated politicians who switched political ideologies (moved from the left to the right). In line with recent research (Fu et al., 2007), results indicate that MS induced people high in NFC to express greater support for politicians seeking consensus in the political centre, compared to politicians endorsing liberal or conservative ideologies, an effect consistent with research linking NFC to desires for group centrism and collective closure.
A second study (N= 170) clarified this issue further with participants evaluating political parties (rather than individual politicians) depicted as moving from their traditional left/ right positions toward the political centre in one condition, or parties that remained true to their traditional ideologies in a second condition. Results revealed that participants high in NFC exposed to MS expressed significantly higher levels of support for parties moving from the extreme right to the centre, than for parties moving from the extreme left to the centre.
A third study (N=276) explored how the activation of specific needs for cognitive closure via MS would result in an increased support for a centrist political party described as uniform in thought and enjoying an internal (vs. split) mandate for the party’s manifesto. The results further indicate that reminders of mortality amplify demands for consensus and clarity more than signalling a demand for ideological clarity. Results and implications are discussed.