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Internal and External Threat in Relationship With Right-Wing Attitudes


  • Kristof Dhont is a post-doctoral researcher supported by the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO, Belgium). We would like to thank Gordon Hodson as well as the Editor and the Reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Emma Onraet or Alain Van Hiel, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium. Email:,



Previous studies on the relationship between threat and right-wing attitudes have tended to focus on either internal threat, emanating from one's private life, or external threat, originating from society. However, these studies failed to examine whether these types of threats constitute two distinctive dimensions and which of these threats is most closely related to right-wing attitudes.


In order to explore the dimensions underlying threat, a factor analysis on a variety of threat scales was conducted (Study 1; N = 300). Furthermore, in a meta-analysis (Study 2; total N = 22,086) and a questionnaire study in a large representative sample (Study 3, N = 800) the strength of the relationships of internal and external threat with right-wing attitudes were investigated.


The present studies revealed that internal and external threat can be considered as two distinct dimensions underlying threat. Moreover, whereas external threat yielded strong relationships with right-wing attitudes, internal threat only explained a minor part of the variance in these attitudes.


External rather than internal threat underlies the relationship between threat and right-wing attitudes.