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History suggests that people do not always move to the
political right under conditions of crisis; in the United States, the
same economic depression resulted in a significant left-wing
movement led by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nevertheless, the possibility
remains that a threat to the stability of the social system, such
as that felt in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, may increase
right-wing conservatism, at least under certain circumstances.
We regard political conservatism as an ideological belief system
that is significantly (but not completely) related to motivational
concerns having to do with the psychological management of
uncertainty and fear. Specifically, the avoidance of uncertainty
(and the striving for certainty) may be particularly tied to one core
dimension of conservative thought, resistance to change (Wilson,
1973c). Similarly, concerns with fear and threat may be linked to
the second core dimension of conservatism, endorsement of inequality
(Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Although resistance to change
and support for inequality are conceptually distinguishable, we
have argued that they are psychologically interrelated, in part
because motives pertaining to uncertainty and threat are interrelated
(e.g., Dechesne et al., 2000; McGregor et al., 2001; van den
Bos & Miedema, 2000).