Relationships between Extreme Ideology, Integrated Threat, and Outgroup Evaluations

This blog post features the content of our poster presentation for the 2020 SPSP convention in New Orleans, Lousiana. It is formated to be read more easily on your computer or smartphone. A PDF of the poster that was presented is available here


  • During an election, political groups view the opposing party as a threat to their party’s platform, which is associated with negative emotional responses toward the opposition (Stephan & Renfro, 2002).
  • Political outgroups represent realistic and symbolic threats to the ingroup (Stephan & Renfro, 2002). Symbolic threat is characterized as a threat to ingroup while realistic threat is characterized as a threat to ingroup resources.
  • Individuals with more extreme political ideology tend to be more willing to derogate members of opposing political groups (Chambers et al., 2013; van Proojin et al. 2015).
  • The current work examines differences in the derogation of an outgroup with respect to feelings of intergroup threat and ideological extremity among American Republicans and Democrats.



  • A sample of Republicans (N = 205) and Democrats (N = 211) was recruited using Amazon’s mechanical Turk system.
  • The sample was recruited two weeks before the 2016 presidential election.


Ideological Polarization
3-item measure assessing how polarized participants’ liberal or conservative beliefs are.

5-item scale measuring feelings of threat from the opposing party (Stephan & Stephan, 2000). This scale contained items evaluating both realistic and symbolic threat.

Outgroup Evaluation
5-item scale measuring participants feelings about the characteristics of members of the opposing party hold (Fiske et al., 2002).


An exploratory analysis suggested that both integrated threat (β = -.28, sr2 = .07, p < .001) and ideological extremity (β = -.12, sr2 = .01, p = .02) are negatively related to outgroup evaluations, F(3,383) = 18.85, R2 = .129, p = .13.

There was a significant interaction between ideological extremity and integrated threat, β = -.13, sr2 = .02, p = .005. For participants who felt more threatened by the outgroup, ideological extremity was negatively related to evaluations of the members of the opposing political party, β = -.25, p < .001. However, this relationship was not significant for participants who felt less threatened by the opposing political party, β = .01, p = .86.


  • This analysis suggests that Republicans and Democrats who have more extreme ideologies tend to also express more negative views regarding members of the opposition party when they feel threatened by that party.
  • It also suggests that there may not be a relationship between ideological extremity and evaluations of the opposition party when feelings of threat are low.
  • These findings have implications for applied work seeking to reduce the intergroup conflict in American politics.
  • Future work should seek to replicate these findings in a confirmatory context.


Chambers, J. R., Schlenker, B. R., & Collisson, B. (2013). Ideology and prejudice: The role of value conflicts. Psychological Science, 24(2), 140–149.
Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902.
Stephan, C. W., Stephan, W. G., Demitrakis, K. M., Yamada, A. M., & Clason, D. L. (2000). Women’s attitudes toward men: An integrated threat theory approach. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24(1), 63–73.
Stephan, W. G., Renfro, C. L., & Davis, M. D. (2008). The role of threat in intergroup relations. In U. Wagner, L. R. Tropp, G. Finchilescu, & C. Tredoux (Eds.), Improving Intergroup Relations (pp. 55–72). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
van Prooijen, J.-W., Krouwel, A. P. M., Boiten, M., & Eendebak, L. (2015). Fear among the extremes: How political ideology predicts negative emotions and outgroup derogation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(4), 485–497.