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Keywords:

  • Political conservatism;
  • Social cognition;
  • Threat perceptions;
  • Ideological motives;
  • System justification;
  • Social dominance

Using data from a longitudinal study of college students, this study assessed the relationships among the threat perceptions of realistic threat and intergroup anxiety, the ideological motives of system justification and social dominance orientation (SDO), and political conservatism. Those who had higher perceptions of realistic threat and intergroup anxiety at the end of their first year of college showed higher levels of system justification and SDO at the end of their second and third years of college, controlling for precollege expressions of each variable. Higher levels of these two ideological motives at the end of students' second and third years of college were associated with more politically conservative attitudes at the end of students' fourth year of college, again controlling for precollege expressions. These longitudinal results are discussed in terms of a model of political conservatism as motivated social cognition.