We are in the penultimate chapter of The Authoritarians and Altemeyer is starting to address the elephant in the room: how does authoritarianism correlate to political affiliation? #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
Altemeyer sent his RWA survey to over 4,000 politicians, and got about a 25% response rate, mostly from state senators and lower legislators. Here's the data.
On average, Republicans scored 40 points more authoritarian than Democrats, though, notably, Democrats covered a much wider range of the scale.

Though the average was lower, they spanned from the least authoritarian to higher than the Republican average.
Altemeyer points out that, in the states where he got more responses, the difference between Democrat and Republican was WIDER, implying that, had he gotten 100% responses, the divide would likely be even more than 40 points.
A few things that, from studying the voting habits of the responders, correlate to authoritarianism:
Weak correlation:

Not thinking wife abuse is a major problem.
Moderate correlation:

Racial and ethnic prejudice, rejecting high taxes on the rich and low taxes on the poor.
Sturdy correlation:

Favoring capital punishment, opposing gun control, favoring Christian religious instruction in schools, opposing affirmative action.
Strong correlation:

Opposing Equal Rights Amendment, opposing restrictions on police wiretaps, opposing Roe v. Wade.
Very strong correlation:

Restricting anti-war protests, opposing equal access to housing and employment for queer people.
Altemeyer stresses that these correlations span across party. High-authoritarian Democrats favored the same policies, and low-authoritarian Republicans did not.

There's just a lot more high-RWA Republicans than high-RWA Democrats.
(High-authoritarian Democrats tend to be Southern Democrats.)
Though the Social Dominator Scale had not been invented yet when these surveys were conducted, though a smaller, less precise questionnaire Altemeyer suspects most of the high-authoritarian politicians are Double Highs.
Followers don't run for office, so authoritarian politicians tend to also be dominators, Altemeyer believes.
Based on later studies of Canadian politicians, after the Social Dominator Scale had been invented, the evidence suggests that *most* authoritarian politicians are Double Highs.

Guess my observation about Trump wasn't that astute.
Hmm, Altemeyer is going on an extended riff on the rise of the Christian Right, and how instrumental it was in the elections of Reagan and both Bushes, not to mention a huge portion of state legislatures.
He devoted an entire chapter to how authoritarian fundamentalist Christians are, and believes that their integration with the Republican Party is a major factor in the Republicans becoming more authoritarian.
I wonder how this section would read if it were written after the election of the profoundly irreligious Trump.
Alright, I've moved on to the final chapter, about What Can Be Done, and Altemeyer is building dramatic tension by explaining, in detail, the Milgram Experiments.
Altemeyer makes allusions to contemporary politicians without naming them at various points, assuming we'll know who he's talking about, which are harder to follow a decade after the book was written.

Yet he thinks we've never heard of the Milgram Experiments. 🤔
OK, so the point Altemeyer is making by invoking Milgram is a variation on the Milgram Experiments that showed the following:
Over 90% of people would keep administering shocks if they had a partner who kept at it.

Over 90% of people would refuse if they had a partner who refused.
Altemeyer's point is that people administered shocks in the Milgram Experiments because people reflexively obey authority. But folks follow their peers is even more strongly than authority figures.
He argues that, how authoritarian we are in our belief systems, have only moderate bearing on our behavior once you factor in social context.
People of all stripes have trouble saying No to, as he puts it, "direct pressure from above and subtle pressure from around us."
Authority and peer pressure will have an easier time with high-RWAs, but they don't exactly have difficulty with any of us.
Fucking hell, I will spare you the protracted and frankly horrifying narrative Altemeyer is sharing of Jewish executions by the Nazis in 1942. I was not prepared for that.
Alright, in his chapter titled What Can Be Done, he has FINALLY stopped talking about how horrible everything can be and is actually talking about what can be done. Here goes:
Reducing fear: Authoritarianism breeds in fear, so if we could get politicians and news networks to be less scaremongering, we would have a positive effect. This is unlikely, however, because there are so many incentives for scaremongers.
Reducing self-righteousness: Again, unlikely, because the self-righteous are the least likely to renounce self-righteousness.
Reducing ethnocentric fundamentalism: Encouraging religious families to raise their children more on Christian ideals than group cohesion with their own sect of Christianity. Also unlikely.
Teaching older kids to question authority: Sadly, parents are authority figures, and tend not to teach their kids to defy them.
Give authoritarians copies of Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians: The cheeky suggestion, but also ineffective.

Authoritarians a) want to be average, i.e. not anti-authoritarian, just medium-authoritarian, and b) don't realize they're authoritarian in the first place.
Tell authoritarians they're being manipulated: Rarely works because they trust the person manipulating them more than they trust you, because you are the out-group.
Here are Altemeyer's more pragmatic suggestions:
Normalizing yourself: Authoritarians have a strong - STRONG - drive to be normal, and existing in their filter-bubbles allows them to believe that authoritarian thinking is normal. Contact with non-authoritarians changes that view.
Altemeyer actually advocates AGAINST this contact being an argument or debate; that will usually polarize you further. He recommends superordinate goals: find one area of common ground and do work together in that area.
He uses the example of fundamentalist Christian groups that take an interest in the environment. If you ally with such a group and talk frankly with fundies about your beliefs you can make a meaningful impact.
The point is not to convince them of anything in particular, simply to expose them to the idea that someone could hold beliefs other than theirs; that, in fact, a lot of people do. The desire to be "normal" can push them in your direction.
(For my own perspective, this is a careful balance to strike, because you need to know when an authoritarian-leaning group is worth working with and when they have crossed the Rubicon.)
(By all means, try to reach conservative groups, but don't try to clean a river with fucking Stormfront.)
He does recommend some strategery: The front ranks of an authoritarian organization will be the least pliable members. You need to pinpoint the people you can reach. Use a scalpel, not a shotgun.
Visible minorities: Altemeyer phrases this as asking minorities to speak up, because nothing reduces fear of the Other like getting to know the Other. I take issue with that phrasing and recommend, instead, that we privileged-ass people elevate the voices of minorities.
Higher education: Keep working to make college accessible and diverse, because college doesn't just increase your future income, it decreases one's authoritarianism by 15-20%.
Getting away from one's community of origin, and exposure to a broad range of ideas and people, is directly correlated to a decrease in authoritarianism. College is not the only way to do these things, but it's currently the best way.
Don't have kids: This one is a joke, but it is true that having kids tends to make one emulate the authoritarianism levels of their parents. But Altemeyer says the species ceasing to reproduce would be "counterproductive."
Laws: One thing abut authoritarians is they are fiercely law-abiding. (Or, I should say, fearful of punishment; we've seen enough hate crimes to know they will break laws if there's little risk of the law being enforced.)
Basically, authoritarian followers are Lawful Neutrals. If you pass laws they don't agree with, unless they get some approval from an authority figure, they will grudgingly obey. So get on that affirmative action and repeal those bathroom bills.
Modeling and leadership: Many studies have shown that people will act in accordance with a group, even against their best interests, but will defy the group and follow their beliefs if even one other person does so first.
People don't want to be a minority of one, but they are fine being a minority of two. If you are willing to defy the logic of a group, the most reachable of that group may join you.
(Personally, I've noticed this with panhandlers on public transit. If a person is asking the whole train for a dollar, everyone ignores them until one person opens their wallet. Then SUDDENLY everyone is willing to give a dollar.)
Non-violence: I'm not sure I'm with Altemeyer on this one, but his argument is that people tend to become more authoritarian when they feel society is becoming more violent. So violent protests create more authoritarianism.
He mentioned the "Gandhi trap" earlier, where the only kind of violence that REDUCES authoritarianism is when authority assaults non-violent protesters.
My reservation with this is that, while violence is generally a suboptimal solution, sometimes it's the only solution left.
If we'd done our job right, Richard Spencer never would have been in a position to spread his rhetoric on the news in an interview. But once we're at that point, a punch to the head is the most efficient way to shut his mouth.
Also, historically, "non-violent" protests manage to be non-violent because they carry the inherent threat of violence. No Nazies got punched at the Boston counter-protest because we outnumbered them 1000:1.
They knew not to fuck with us.
Beyond that, non-violent protests generally get embraced specifically because they are contrasted with violent ones. King was deemed more acceptable than Malcolm X. He would not have been acceptable without the comparison.
(And King's people kept guns on hand just in case, FYI.)

So, yes, non-violence is the best optics and has the best chance of decreasing authoritarianism. It is preferable, but it's often a luxury.
As is pointed out in this excellent piece, non-violence is the willingness to take a baseball bat to the head. If you're the one taking the blow, don't judge anyone for fighting back.

Anyway, these are all long-term solutions, and Altemeyer stresses that sometimes things are more immediate than long-term thinking can handle. But he doesn't have much short-term advice other than a generic "speak up."
Annnnnnnd, that's the end of the book. Wow, I've been pecking my way through this since early November.

It's been a wild ride, folks. Thanks for joining me on this, the longest ever #IanLivetweetsHisResearch. Catch you on the next one.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Ian Crosby Stills Nash & Young Danskin
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!