Bridging Political Divides: Perceived Threat and Uncertainty Avoidance Help Explain the Relationship Between Political Ideology and Immigrant Attitudes Within Diverse Intergroup Contexts

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  • School of Psychology, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom


The political divide between liberals and conservatives has become quite large and stable, and there appear to be many reasons for disagreements on a wide range of issues. The current research sought to explain these divides and to extend the Uncertainty-Threat Model to intergroup relations, which predicts that more dispositional, perceived-threat and uncertainty-avoidance will be related to more political conservatism. Given that conservatism is also often related to more negativity to low-status groups such as immigrants, the relationship between political ideology and negative attitudes toward immigrants may be mediated by more threat and uncertainty-avoidance. Study 1 tested this mediational hypothesis in a correlational design and showed that both uncertainty-avoidance and perceived realistic and symbolic threat significantly mediated the relationship between political ideology and attitudes toward immigrants, and that perceived threat was the more influential mediator. Study 2 extended threat management to perceived threats from unspecified outgroups, as opposed to the immigrant outgroup, and it replicated all significant mediations. Study 3 replicated the mediations observed in Studies 1 and 2 for political ideology to attitudes toward immigrants with uncertainty-avoidance and perceived threat from immigrants as mediators; it further replicated the mediations to the negative attitudes measure that had been used in Study 2 and it extended it to an objective and indirect bias measure [i.e., Affect Misattribution Procedure (AMP)]. Overall, almost all of the results supported the idea that perceived threat and uncertainty-avoidance both mediate the relationship between political ideology and attitudes toward immigrants, and that threat management, as opposed to negativity bias, may be a central concern separating liberals and conservatives. Within all three studies, we also observed more evidence for the Uncertainty-Threat Model predictions than we did for the alternative Extremity Hypothesis, which predicted a quadratic relationship between political ideology and threat and uncertainty, and between political ideology and attitudes toward immigrants.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1236
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2019


  • bias, intergroup, political ideology, threat, uncertainty