Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Psychological mechanisms underlying political orientations in an old and a new democracy – A comparative study between Sweden and Latvia

Ämne: Psykologi
Projektledare: Maria Sandgren
Startår: 2013
Projekttyp: Projekt

The aim of this project is to study the psychological aspects of individual political orientation (i.e., identifying oneself as leftist/liberal vs. rightist/conservative). Based on a number of theoretical accounts of psychological mechanisms behind political or ideological orientations, covering aspects such as abstract/concrete level of representation, value priorities and moral foundations, the project examines the psychological mechanisms underlying political orientation, and the structure and contents of this orientation in Sweden and Latvia. Both countries offer a promising background for comparative research of political ideology. Sweden has long democratic traditions and a well-developed political culture.
Latvia is still in its early stages of development. In addition, the political landscape in Latvia is heavily dominated by the ethnic division between Latvians and Russian-speaking minorities, making endorsement of certain political values and attitudes a secondary factor in predicting political behavior. This provides a good opportunity to see which psychological aspects of political ideology are more universal, and which ones are more culture-specific.

The proposed research will consist of three blocks of studies. First, there will be one study with a representative sample from Sweden and Latvia examining value priorities, importance of moral foundations, and a number of political attitudes. Second, a number of more data-intensive studies with smaller, non-representative samples in both countries will be carried out (primarily to assess the relation between information processing styles, individual difference variables, and political orientation). Third, to assess the impact of situational factors on expression of political attitudes, a series of experiments (with matched samples) will be carried out in Sweden and Latvia.

The research results will allow better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to ideology-based social conflicts, and would allow preventing and reducing such conflict. The project will also help to tailor messages to specific political groups so that people with diverse ideological views are engaged in solving of socio-economic problems, such as poverty or environmental issues. And finally, in the Latvian context, the project will facilitate discovering discover what aspects of ideology can serve as unifying mechanisms to create new political identities across ethnic boundaries.