Political Ideology and Attitudes Toward Censorship1


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    This research was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first author. We are grateful for the help of Erin Callaway in performing the content analysis of interpretations of scale items, and of David Eichhorn in formulating some of the questions of our scale.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to P. Suedfeld, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 124.


A modified form of the Attitudes Toward Censorship Questionnaire (Hense & Wright, 1992) was developed to assess the degree to which that scale measures attitudes toward censorship in general as opposed to censorship of material representing particular sociopolitical values. The revised form characterized the potentially censorable materials as racist, sexist, or violent. University student respondents who showed high acceptance of censorship in this context scored high on measures of authoritarianism, political conservatism, and conventional family ideology (as had procensorship respondents on the Hense and Wright scale), but low on a scale of economic conservatism. Women were more favorably inclined toward censorship than men. Supporters of Canada's most left-wing (social democratic) major federal party were most favorable to censorship. Factor analysis showed that most of the variance could be explained by a cluster that we have labeled “Politically Correct Puritanism”: support for censoring racist and sexist materials and depictions of sexual violence. The second major factor was related to commercial availability of such materials. Content-specific items on both the original and our modified scales may establish a context that guides the interpretation of nonspecific items, so that both the original Attitudes Toward Censorship Questionnaire and our modified version may be measuring attitudes toward censorship of materials violating a particular view of morality, rather than toward censorship in principle.