Survey of ‘Alt-Right’ Shows Psychology Behind White Supremacy

Person filling out surveyAccording to a new working paper by psychologists Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily, people who identify with “alt-right” ideologies see non-white people, women, feminists, and other groups as less human than white men. Hillary Clinton ranks as the least human of all other people and groups in the report. The paper might help explain why white supremacists who attacked counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a protest against the removal of a Confederate statue saw the counter-protesters as the instigators.

The paper has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so the data are not nationally representative and should be considered preliminary.

What Motivates the ‘Alt-Right’

Forscher and Kteily surveyed 447 people who identified as “alt-right” in April. They compared the sample’s answers to 382 participants who did not identify with the alt-right.

Participants answered open-ended questions about their beliefs, common myths about the alt-right, and their views on minority and multicultural groups. They also ranked various groups on a scale of 0-100, with 0 indicating a less evolved group and 100 indicating a very evolved group. Previous research suggests this question correlates with dehumanization. Alt-right groups tend to dehumanize groups they view as “less evolved.”

The control group ranked all groups in the 80s or 90s, while the alt-right participants engaged in systematic dehumanization. Their average ranking of each group or individual is as follows:

  • White people: 91.8
  • Americans: 88.63
  • Men: 88.47
  • Europeans: 87.08
  • Swedes: 84.11
  • Christians: 83.81
  • Women: 83.12
  • Donald Trump: 82.82
  • Republicans: 82.78
  • Russians: 78.98
  • Jews: 73.09
  • Government workers: 70.72
  • Republicans who did not vote for Trump: 69.85
  • Mexicans: 67.75
  • Black people: 64.72
  • Turks: 63.88
  • Democrats: 60.38
  • Arabs: 58.77
  • Journalists: 58.65
  • Nigerians: 58.63
  • Feminists: 57.22
  • Muslims: 55.4
  • Hillary Clinton: 54.83

Participants who identified with alt-right ideology showed significant differences with the control group on many measures, including their answers to open-ended questions. They were more likely to report bullying or harassing people online, more likely to believe police do not get enough respect, and more likely to report revenge-seeking behavior. They scored higher than the comparison group on measures of narcissism and authoritarianism.

Is White Supremacy About Economic Disenfranchisement?

Some analysts have argued that economic disenfranchisement breeds white supremacy. Disaffected white people look for someone to blame, often embracing racist ideology as a result. The study does not support this conclusion.

Survey results indicated people who identified as alt-right were not more socially isolated than other groups, nor are they more concerned about the economy than the comparison group. Rather than focusing on transferring power from elites to other groups—the outcome researchers would expect if the group was about expressing anger at economic oppression—group members primarily focused on perceived supremacy to, and aggression directed at, minority groups. People who identified with alt-right beliefs were significantly more likely to admit to aggressive behavior.

The authors say they believe knowing more about the psychological profiles and motivations behind people who identity as alt-right can help researchers better understand white supremacy. They say this is the first step to potentially change what leads white supremacists to express prejudice and discrimination, and changing that motivation may help prevent violence and aggression against minority groups.

References:

  1. Forscher, P. S., & Kteily, N. S. (2017). A psychological profile of the alt-right [PDF].
  2. Ingraham, C. (2017, August 16). The ‘alt-right’ is just another word for white supremacy, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/16/the-alt-right-is-just-another-word-for-white-supremacy-study-finds/?utm_term=.28e7e71df644

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  • 9 comments
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  • Cole

    Cole

    August 21st, 2017 at 1:14 PM

    I have to think that so much of this stems from their own insecurities. They know that they are not smarter than someone else, so they have to figure out another way to make them feel like they are still superior. Oh, they are white men, that’ll do, that is the ticket to having superiority over other people. That’s all in their heads, though, The rational ones of us all know that this is BS, not true at all, but then they feed off of each other and bam! There’s your story.

  • Trinity

    Trinity

    August 21st, 2017 at 11:10 PM

    The internet is flooded with propaganda, and nobody wants to stop it for fear of damaging free speech.

    I have seen members of my own family adopt new, extreme beliefs which they have not expressed prior. They will trust these new sources of information above their own religious leaders and previous loyalties. Any reasonable debate is ended with cries of ‘fake news’ and a repetition of slogans and memes. It is like speaking with cult members.

    If nothing changes, we are heading towards some very dark times.

  • Gail

    Gail

    August 22nd, 2017 at 5:19 PM

    I appreciate your sharing this info…….I have kinda supposed this was happening, but you won’t find this on the news. Prejudice appeals to people who dislike using their brains to investigate. They just want the super easy slogans as if that makes their lives better somehow. It doesn’t.

  • Sharon

    Sharon

    August 22nd, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    Humans are not born to hate, they are taught. Hate is cultural, it begins in the home, the community, it spreads, it is also driven by psychological bullying and abuse. All countries have racial, cultural dislikes, though some worse than others. Socio-Economics has always been a driving force for the hate and fate of those less fortunate regardless of race/creed/color/religion. It is a world wide caste system difficult to smother regardless of where we are in this world.

  • Mary C.

    Mary C.

    August 22nd, 2017 at 2:36 PM

    If this is the entire list of groups that subjects were asked about, then the psychologists’ bias is showing. It should have LGBTQ and disabled people. As many as 200,000 disabled people were killed by Nazis and many gay people.

  • Paul R

    Paul R

    August 22nd, 2017 at 3:33 PM

    “White Trash: The 400 Year History of Class in America” book may give some insight into these alt right folks come from a long line of whites who have been relegated to the status of human waste. This history of the US described the role of the landed and the productive, and those who attempted to assign and control the class level of peoples. They shout so loudly in anger, that we don’t hear their pain and desperation.

  • Christopher

    Christopher

    August 23rd, 2017 at 2:24 PM

    You can never dismiss the role that family history also plays in this vicious cycle. And yes, I think that economics are a huge thing

  • marcy

    marcy

    August 25th, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    This might sound too simplistic, but there will not ever be an excuse that is “sound” enough to make me think that this is the right decision for someone to make.

    When they are considering this type of choice they have to know that this is not going to be popular and it isn’t anything that is going to win them any sympathy other than form the other closed minded individuals that they are now going to be associating with.

  • Brett

    Brett

    August 28th, 2017 at 7:57 AM

    Don’t you think that there is something going on in society as a whole that is driving much of this growth?

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