Liberals Report Lower Levels of Attitudinal Ambivalence Than Conservatives

Leonard S. Newman, Rikki H. Sargent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Political conservatism has been shown to be positively correlated with intolerance of ambiguity, need for closure, and dogmatism and negatively correlated with openness to new experiences and uncertainty tolerance. Those findings suggest that conservatism should also be negatively correlated with attitudinal ambivalence; by definition, ambivalent attitudes are more complex and more tinged with uncertainty than univalent attitudes. However, little published research addresses this issue. The results of five studies (total N = 1,049 participants) reveal instead that political liberalism is negatively associated with ambivalence. This finding held for both subjective and potential (i.e., formula-based) measures of ambivalence and for both politicized and nonpoliticized attitude objects. Conservatives may prefer uncomplicated and consistent ways of thinking and feeling, but that preference might not necessarily be reflected in the actual consistency of their mental representations. Possible accounts for these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)780-788
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • ambivalence
  • attitudes
  • conservatism
  • political psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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