Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.
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Right Wing Authoritarianism and the
Perceived Seriousness of Drug Related Activity

Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Criminology
University of North Carolina Wilmington

The seriousness of drug related acts was measured in this research. Seriousness scores are significantly related to authoritarian personality traits. Right Wing Authoritarianism is related to seriousness, the rank ordering of drug related behaviors, and opinions about drug legalization. Policy implications of the relationship of authoritarianism and seriousness scores are discussed.

            The direction of public policy can change as the result of increased participation and power of a particular group of policy makers. This group of policy makers proceeds, perhaps with a claimed mandate, to alter policy in directions consistent with their ideologies. We have seen such a change with the shift in power in the United States House of Representatives.

            This research examines a potential impact of a shift in political power. One interesting aspect of the current political shift is that the change appears to be related to personality as well as ideology. The personalities of these leaders, as well as those who support them, may be described as authoritarian. Stone, Lederer, and Christie (1993) describe authoritarians as conventional, with aggressive feelings toward "legitimate" targets (e.g., homosexuals, unwed mothers, welfare recipients), and submissive to authoritative or strong leadership.

            This research focuses on opinions regarding drug use and sale. Opinions on the use and sale of illegal as well as legal drugs are measured. Authoritarian attitudes are also measured. The interaction of authoritarianism and opinions about the seriousness of drug related activity is the primary focus of this research.

            This research tests several hypotheses. These are listed below. Several other variables may also lead to interesting results. In addition to data on authoritarianism and the seriousness of drug related activity, information on church attendance, political ideology, and drug legalization yield interesting results. Results are discussed below, following a discussion of crime seriousness measures and measures of authoritarianism.


1. Authoritarianism and political ideology will be highly correlated. High authoritarians will be more conservative.
2. High authoritarians will provide higher seriousness scores than low authoritarians.
3. Rank ordering of the seriousness of acts will be similar among high, medium, and low authoritarians. While the ranking is expected to be similar, for example sale of drugs as more serious than use, there will be significant differences between the three categories of authoritarianism.
4. Individuals scoring high on the Right Wing Authoritarian scale will be less likely to support the legalization of drugs.
5. Individuals scoring high on the Right Wing Authoritarian scale will be less likely to support the legalization of marijuana.


            Several researchers have attempted to obtain consensus on the relative seriousness of criminal or deviant behaviors. In general, these measures are referred to as crime seriousness scales. Acts on these scales range from serious crimes such as "planned killing of a person for a fee," to acts that some consider deviant, such as "proposing homosexual practices to an adult."

            An early seriousness scale was developed by Sellin and Wolfgang (1964). This scale included one sentence descriptions of crimes. In 1974, Rossi, Waite, Bose, and Berk developed a 140 item scale, again with brief descriptions of criminal acts. As with the Sellin and Wolfgang research, strong societal consensus regarding crime seriousness was found by Rossi et al.

            Building on this research, Wolfgang, Figlio, Tracy, and Singer (1985) conducted an extensive survey of crime seriousness. This effort, known as the National Survey of Crime Severity, resulted in seriousness scores for 204 acts. These acts were defined in more precise terms than those in the previous scales. Variables including intent, relationship, gender, and severity of injury were included in the descriptions.

            Measuring the seriousness scores of various acts can be more than an academic exercise. Results of these measures can logically be used to determine criminal justice policy. Since the criminal justice system does not act independent of the wishes of society, broad agreement on the seriousness of crimes can be used as a basis for the criminal code, sentencing, and the actions of police (Warr, 1989; Hamilton and Rytina, 1980).

            The present research examines differing opinions about the seriousness of drug related acts. Opinions about the seriousness of such acts may be reflected in modification of criminal codes. In the area of drug use and sale, these modifications may be as significant as the criminalization or legalization of certain activities. These potential modifications are likely to be influenced by opinions about seriousness as well as the personalities of those in power.

Scale used in the present research

            A major difference between the scale used in the present research and that used by others is a limitation in the type of acts. The present research is limited to drug related activity. This is a much narrower range of activity than is usually included on crime seriousness scales.

            Drug related items that were included on the Rossi et al. (1974) scale are included in the present research. Other items are unique to this research. The present research is limited to opinions about drug sale and use. On Rossi's scale the seriousness of using marijuana is contrasted to items such as "planned killing of a person for a fee." Drug use and sale may seem trivial in comparison to other acts. By limiting the scale to these items it is likely that a wider range of scores, related only to drug sale and use, will be achieved.


            Interest in authoritarian personalities began with scales designed in an effort to understand the origins for mass support of the Nazi's. These scales evolved into fascism, or F scales, which included measures of anti-Semitic attitudes. In the late 1940's a link between fascism and authoritarianism was proposed. Researchers were moving from general ideas about a culture to specific ideas about the personalities of individuals in that culture. (See Stone et al., 1993.)

            The psychoanalytical focus on authoritarian personalities was clear in "The Authoritative Personality," or TAP, (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford) which was published in 1950. Inadequacies in this scale, as well as political changes, led to revisions in TAP. Many revisions were concerned with measurement issues (Stone et al., 1993). In general, researchers questioned whether TAP was a unique variable when compared to ideology.

            Due in part to criticism related to an apparent connection of authoritarianism to conservative political power, TAP research declined in the 1960's (Stone et al., 1993). The inability to define a general authoritarianism, lacking in political attachments, was seen as evidence that it was not a unique construct. In the present research, the concepts of authoritarianism and ideology are treated as unique constructs. That said, it seems possible that these concepts, although conceptually distinct, are so interrelated that attempts to separate them are futile.

            Meleon suggests that debate over the connection of the psychological concept of authoritarianism and the sociological concept of political ideology is little more that a turf war. The fact that sociologists and political scientists do not give much credit to personal motivation and reasoning should not be an excuse for ignoring a potentially viable construct. In "light of the reappearance of ethnocentric and authoritarian attitudes in the 1980's, this research is too important for petty quarrels about the kind of insignificant side issues that have dominated the debate on authoritarianism for too long" (Meleon, 1993:68). The present research examines the potential impact of the increased participation of certain individuals. The personalities of those individuals, and those who support them, should not be ignored.

            The authoritarianism measure used in the present research is Altemeyer's (1981) Right Wing Authoritarianism scale (RWA). This 24-item scale "has the virtues of focusing on the core of authoritarianism, being counterbalanced so that agreement prone respondents are not combined with ideologically consistent respondents, and having high reliability" (Christie, 1993:97).

            Altemeyer's scale measures three variables directly related to the potential for criminal justice policy changes as the result of increased participation by, and support for, high authoritarian individuals. The scale measures an orientation toward acceptance of established authority and law, acceptance of law as a basis for morality, and punitiveness toward legitimate targets (Christie, 1991).

            Each of these variables has a clear impact on policy choices made in an effort to control drug sale and use. For example, the primary variable under examination in the present research, the seriousness of drug related behavior, is directly associated with legitimate use of authority by government. It may be safe to assume that high authoritarian individuals will be more in favor of increased governmental authority, and increased punitive measures, to fight a war on drugs.

            The present research has adopted the RWA scale in its entirety, with one minor alteration. One question was reworded in light of changes in drug policy over the last decade. "The courts are right in being easy on drug offenders" was changed to "The courts should be easy on drug offenders." This change was made after a pretest with a 400 level criminal justice course. Students who had studied mandatory sentencing laws were understandably confused by a question that defined the courts as lenient in drug cases.


            A questionnaire was designed to collect data for this research. The first section included descriptions of 25 drug related acts. This list included activity that is legal as well as illegal. The RWA scale made up the second section. The third section included a single question about political ideology, questions about legalizing drugs, a measure of church attendance, and several demographic variables.

          Drug seriousness items were scored on a 9-point scale anchored at each end by "most serious" and "least serious." The RWA scale included a six-point likert scale, three items indicating varying degrees of disagreement, and three items indicating the degree of agreement with the statement. The political ideology question was measured on a five-point scale ranging from "extremely liberal" to "extremely conservative" with "moderate" as the mid point.

            Two questions were related to attitudes about drug legalization. These were simple yes or no questions. One question asked for an opinion about legalizing all drugs. The second asked for the respondent's opinion about legalizing marijuana. Church attendance was included as a measure of religiosity. This variable was measured on an eight-point scale with responses ranging from "zero" to "over 100" times in attendance at religious services or other religion oriented events during the past year.

            The survey was given during the first four weeks of the semester in criminal justice classes offered at an upstate campus of a large Midwestern university. A brief instruction sheet was attached to the front of the survey, followed by the drug severity items, the RWA scale, and the demographic items. Respondents were asked to read the first ten descriptions in order to develop a general idea of the range of issues covered before indicating their perceptions of the seriousness of drug related acts. Respondents were asked to "rate the seriousness of the acts based on your opinion. In other words, rate these acts without consideration of the punishment prescribed by law." Participants were assured that no effort would be made to identify individual respondents.


            The following discussion covers several variables of interest in this research. First, the data is analyzed in the effort to clarify the relationship of authoritarianism and political ideology. Next, the crime seriousness rankings are discussed. Finally, the interactions of RWA and ideology to seriousness scores and opinions about drug legalization are discussed.

            Surveys were completed by 157 students. Respondent age ranged from 18 to 50, with 24.2 as the mean age. Thirty-two percent of the respondents were freshmen, the remaining respondents were evenly split between sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Eighty percent of the respondents classified themselves as European American/White, 11 percent as African American/Black. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents were men.

Authoritarianism and Political Ideology

            The mean score on the six point RWA scale was 3.92. Scores ranged from 1.83 to 5.46. Higher scores indicate a higher authoritarian attitude. On the political ideology self report 5.1 percent defined themselves as very liberal. Just over 20 percent identified themselves as liberal, 23.5 checked conservative, and 3.9 percent identified themselves as very conservative. Forty-seven percent selected moderate.

            Authoritarian scores were highly correlated with ideology scores (r=.4238, p=.000). Forward multiple regression was used to describe the relationship of RWA and ideology. Results of the regression analysis, with RWA as the dependent variable, are reported in Table 1. Political ideology is the first variable entered, followed by gender and church attendance. No other variables were significant predictors of RWA scores. A second regression analysis, using a stepwise, or hierarchical variable entry, indicates that political ideology remains a significant predictor of authoritarian score even after the effects of other variables are statistically controlled.

            These results support the first hypothesis. Authoritarianism and political ideology are highly correlated. As expected, high authoritarians are more conservative.

TABLE 1 - Multiple Regressions - Authoritarian Score

      Forward Method - RWA Score as Dependent Variable

      Step Variable Multiple R R Square Sig. of R Sq. Change

      1.         Political Ideology                            .4219               .1780

      2.         Gender                                          .4730               .2237               .0030

      3.         Church Attendance                         .4943               .2444               .0427

      Stepwise Method - RWA Score as Dependent Variable

      Step Variable Multiple R R Square Sig. of R Sq. Change

      1.         Age, Gender, Church Attendance     .3190               .1018

      2.         Ideology                                        .5064               .2565               .0000

            In spite of a significant relationship between political ideology and RWA, there is evidence that the variables differ in some way. Three respondents scoring above 4.5 on the RWA scale identified themselves as liberal. Sixteen liberals scored below 3.5 on the RWA scale. Four students who defined themselves as conservative scored below 3.5 on the RWA scale, while 14 conservatives scored above 4.5. The data provides evidence of liberal authoritarians, as well as low authoritarian conservatives. These findings lend support to the suggestion that the RWA scale measures a construct separate from political ideology. It is also possible that these students, young and early in an education experience that often results in ideological definition and consistency, are not able to clearly define their political ideology.

            Religiosity is another variable related to authoritarianism and political ideology. As we see in Table 1, number of days of church attendance is a significant predictor of RWA scores. Church attendance correlates with RWA scores (r=.1504, p=.063) and with political ideology (r=.0334, p=.674). While it appears that conservatives and those scoring high on the RWA scale attend church related events more often, the simplicity of religiosity measures used in the present research prevents an in-depth analysis of this issue.

            Neither of these correlations is statistically significant, yet the correlation of church attendance with RWA is stronger that the correlation of attendance and ideology. This finding provides additional evidence that RWA and political ideology, although highly correlated with each other, may differ in some way.

            A closer look at the specific religious beliefs of respondents may yield a clearer picture of the relationship of church attendance and other variables. In this sample, broad categories were used to describe religion. Thirty-four percent of the respondents defined themselves as Protestant, 35.6 percent as Catholic. Other choices included Baptist (3.4 percent), Atheist (2 percent), and other (21.5 percent). While there does not appear to be significant ideological differences between these groups, further analysis, directed toward a clearer definition of religious preference, may provide interesting results. It seems equally possible that further analysis would provide little information. Failure to find a link between religion and other variables that are evident in this group may provide support for the suggestion that the "religious right" is falsely claiming moral superiority, as well as general support, in the policy making arena.

Seriousness Scores

            Seriousness scores for all variables are listed in Table 2. Mean scores were computed and the items were rank ordered. The most serious items are at the top of the list. There is very little gender difference in seriousness scores (r=.0010). There are slight gender differences on single items, but for the entire scale there is little gender difference. Scores on this list are not weighted to account for gender imbalance (males=58 percent).

            The seriousness ranking of crimes roughly parallels the order of legal or social sanctions which are intended to punish and/or control this behavior. Sale of an item is seen as more serious than use. The seriousness score is higher as frequency of use increases. Illegal drug use is generally seen as more serious than the use of legal substances, although excessive use of cigarettes and alcohol is seen as slightly more serious than marijuana use.

            The second research hypothesis, that high authoritarians will provide higher seriousness scores, is supported by the data. The relationship of authoritarianism and seriousness scores is graphically depicted in Figure 1. As authoritarianism increases, so do seriousness scores. Interestingly, this is especially true for women. Further research may clarify the interaction of gender and authoritarianism.

FIGURE 1 - Mean Scores of Drug Related Acts

            The relationship of authoritarianism and drug seriousness scores is also demonstrated through the use of multiple regression. In a forward multiple regression, with drug seriousness as the dependant variable, authoritarianism is the only significant predictor of seriousness score (R=.3232). Authoritarianism remains a significant predictor of seriousness score (R=.3607, significance of change in R.Sq.=.0010) when the effects of covariates are statistically controlled in a hierarchical regression analysis.

            The second hypothesis is supported in this research. Scores on the RWA scale are significant predictors of drug seriousness scores. This relationship is especially strong among women respondents in this sample. In separate analyses, variables measuring the seriousness scores of drug related activity categorized as sale, use, illegal, legal, cocaine related, and marijuana related acts. Scores on the RWA are significant predictors of seriousness scores on each of these variables.

            Support for the third hypothesis is found in an examination of Table 2. Rank ordering of variables is similar for individuals who score high, medium (those who score within +/- one standard deviation from the mean), or low on the RWA scale. The third hypothesis states that rank ordering of the seriousness of acts will be similar among high, medium, and low authoritarians. Examination of Table 2 illustrates general agreement among the three groups.

            Spearman correlation coefficients, which are used for rank order variables, indicate that the rank order provided by high and medium authoritarians correlate highly with the order of the group as a whole. These correlations are .9508 for high authoritarians and .9969 for medium authoritarians. Since the majority of subjects were in the medium authoritarianism category, we would expect that their score with correlate highly with the group as a whole. High authoritarian scores also correlate highly, and there are only 21 subjects in this category.

TABLE 2 - Rank Order of All Acts - Authoritarian Differences

All Mean High Mean Med Mean Low Mean    Variable

1      8.26        2     8.81        1     8.23        1     7.90        Selling LSD to minors

2      8.04        1     8.86        2     8.04        4     7.29        Selling heroin

3      7.99        10     8.33        3     8.03        2     7.43        Using cocaine daily

4      7.98        6     8.52        4     7.99        3     7.38        Using crack daily

5      7.92        4     8.57        5     7.99        5     6.86        Selling cocaine

6      7.84        5     8.57        6     7.90        3     6.76        Selling crack cocaine

7      7.79        3     8.62        7     7.82        6     6.81        Using heroin

8      7.71        8     8.48        8     7.76        10     6.71        Using crack

9      7.61        11     8.19        9     7.70        13     6.52        Using cocaine

10     7.55        9     8.43        10     7.54        9     6.76        Using LSD over 20 times per year

11     7.52        7     8.52        11     7.50        12     6.62        Selling LSD

12     7.31        13     8.05        12     7.29        11     6.67        Inhaling butane or other to get high

13     7.18        15     7.81        13     7.13        7     6.81        Getting drunk nearly every day

14     6.68        14     7.86        19     6.75        15     5.14        Selling marijuana

15     6.67        12     8.19        15     6.65        14     5.24        Using LSD

16     6.25        16     7.29        16     6.26        16     5.14        Addicted to pain pills

17     6.09        18     6.95        17     6.17        18     4.81        Daily marijuana use

18     5.81        17     7.00        18     5.95        21     3.86        Growing marijuana for personal use

19     5.55        21     6.10        21     5.57        17     4.95        Smoke three packs of cigarettes a day

20     5.55        22     5.86        20     5.63        19     4.81        Drinking alcohol daily

21     5.53        20     6.29        19     5.76        22     3.52        Smoking marijuana

22     5.53        19     6.76        22     5.54        20     4.24        Being drunk in public places

23     5.01        23     5.62        23     5.18        23     3.48        Minor smoking cigarettes

24     4.30        24     5.52        24     4.38        24     2.62        19 yr old, drinking with fake ID

25     3.71        25     5.05        25     3.70        25     2.38        Smoking cigarettes

            The biggest difference between the three authoritarianism categories is found among the low authoritarians. The spearman correlation for the rank order of this group, when compared to the group as a whole, was .7822. There appear to be differences between the low and higher score authoritarians, yet these differences do not have a strong impact on the rank ordering of variables for all. This is most likely due to the low number of individuals who scored low on the RWA scale (S=21, the same number of subjects as in the high authoritarian category).

            The third hypothesis predicts that ranking will be similar, but there will be significant differences between the three categories of authoritarianism. This hypothesis is partly supported by the present research. While not reaching a level of statistical significance, there are differences between low authoritarians and others. The small size of the current sample may limit the significance of between groups differences. Yet even with a larger sample, the size of the low and high authoritarian groups may not change relative to the medium authoritarian group.

            A primary interest in the present research is the political impact of varying levels of participation among the three categories of authoritarians. The impact of low authoritarians may be limited by their numbers. This impact may also be limited to the extent that medium and high authoritarians are more likely to agree with each other than with low authoritarians. The potential for a natural coalition of high and medium authoritarians is indicated in the present research.

Authoritarianism and Drug Legalization

            The last two hypotheses are related to the interaction of scores on the RWA scale and opinions about drug legalization. Only 7.7 percent of the respondents supported legalization of all drugs for use by adults. High authoritarians were less likely to agree with this statement (r=.3253, p=.000). Conservatives also disagreed with this statement (r=.2191, p=.007).

            Unusual results were found in relation to the interaction of RWA scores and opinions about the legalization of all drugs. As we saw in the previous section, the relationship of authoritarianism and certain variables is stronger for women than it is for men. In the case of drug legalization, the only group that favored legalization of all drugs was low authoritarian women. High authoritarian men were 100 percent opposed to legalization of all drugs. This finding should lead to caution in assuming a relationship of authoritarianism and opinions about drug legalization. While this result may be unique to this sample, it is impossible to ignore the strong gender difference in regard to this issue. In short, while the data supports the fourth hypothesis, it is apparent that this relationship is more complex than is indicated by the correlation of RWA and drug legalization.

            Respondents in this sample were open to the idea of marijuana legalization. In response to this question, 41.7 percent favored legalization. Again, high authoritarians were less supportive of legalization (r=.3011, p=.000). The correlation of ideology and attitudes about marijuana legalization is slightly higher (r=.3037, p=.000). These findings support the fifth hypothesis, this time without unusual gender differences.

            Multiple regression was also used to describe the relationship of variables to drug legalization opinions. Results of two of these analyses are reported in Table 3. The first regression analysis used a forward entry of variables. In this method only significant variables are entered into the analysis. If a second or third variable is entered, this variable must account for a significant amount of variance above that accounted for by other variables. In this analysis, with drug legalization as the dependant variable, drug seriousness score is the best predictor of opinion about legalizing all drugs. Authoritarianism is also a significant predictor of legalization attitude.

TABLE 3 - Multiple Regressions - Drug Legalization Attitudes

      Forward Method - Drug Legalization as Dependent Variable

      Variable Multiple R R Square Sig. of R Sq. Change

      1.         Drug Seriousness Score                  .4197               .1761

      2.         Authoritarian Score                         .4661               .2172               .0000

      Stepwise Method - Drug Legalization as Dependent Variable

      Step Variable Multiple R R Square Sig.of R.Sq.Chg.

      1.         Age, Gender, Church Attendance     .1048               .0110

      2.         Ideology                                        .2477               .0614               .0460

      3.         Drug Seriousness Score                  .4506               .2030               .0000

      4.         Authoritarian Score                         .4742               .2248               .0000

            It is not surprising that opinion about the seriousness of drug related acts are significant predictors of drug legalization attitudes. Those who believe that drug use and sale are serious acts could be expected to reject the idea of legalization. As we saw above, seriousness scores are highly correlated with RWA scores. As a result, it would be logical to assume that authoritarianism would be a good predictor of legalization attitude due to a high correlation with seriousness scores. The first regression analysis in Table 3 indicates that RWA accounts for a significant amount of variance, even after the effect of seriousness has been removed. In other words, the effect of RWA is not the result of variance shared with seriousness scores.

            Opinion about marijuana legalization was the dependent variable in a second forward multiple regression. The marijuana seriousness score, which includes opinions about the seriousness of growing, smoking, and selling marijuana, was the only significant predictor of marijuana seriousness score (R=.6927, R.Sq.=.4799). Another regression analysis was run with the same variables. The only change was that marijuana seriousness score was not included as an independent variable. In this analysis ideology was the best predictor of marijuana legalization attitude. Authoritarian score was the only other significant variable. Multiple R increased from .3077 to .3623 when authoritarianism was added.

            This is the only analysis in which ideology appeared to be superior to RWA score. It is possible that this is a result of an effort to be ideologically consistent. The political ideology question directly preceded questions about drug legalization. An individual who marked liberal on the ideology question can easily appear to be ideologically consistent by favoring marijuana legalization. When the individual reaches the question regarding legalization of all drugs, he or she may reason that everyone, regardless of ideology, disapproves of this idea.

            It is difficult to remain ideologically consistent on the RWA items. As a result, this scale remains a significant predictor in regard to drug legalization attitudes. When marijuana legalization is the dependent variable, the predictive value of RWA scores is lessened by the fact that individuals can easily remain consistent by checking what they see as the appropriate political ideology. This consistency, although perhaps not based in reality, increases the predictive power of ideology and minimizes the effect of RWA scores.

            The second regression analysis reported in Table 3 uses a stepwise variable entry. A number of items correlate with authoritarianism. These include church attendance (r=.1504), age (-.0907), gender (-.2775), and ideology. Since each of these variables is also related to drug seriousness scores, the relationship of authoritarianism and drug legalization attitudes may be the result of variance shared with other variables.

            Stepwise multiple regression was used to test the unique contribution of authoritarianism to opinions about drug legalization. In this analysis, with drug legalization as the dependent variable, church attendance, age, and gender were entered as a block variable. This was followed by ideology, which remained a significant predictor of drug legalization attitudes once the effect of covariates was statistically controlled. Next, the drug seriousness variable was added. Addition of this variable increased multiple R from .2477 to .4506. Finally, the RWA authority variable was added in order to test the unique contribution of this variable once the interaction of all other variables is controlled. Multiple R increased from .4506 to .4742 with a significance level of .0000. This analysis indicates that authoritarianism is a significant predictor of opinions about drug legalization after the effects of other variables have been controlled.

Policy implications

            The relationship of authoritarianism and seriousness scores can have major implications for criminal justice policy. We can look at crime and deviance as a spectrum of activity, anchored at one end as more serious (e.g., mass murder) and at the other end by less serious (e.g., nipple piercing). Through legislation we have drawn a line, somewhat arbitrarily, on this spectrum. Items on one side of the line are illegal, items on the other side of the line are legal and are not officially controlled or reacted to by the criminal justice system. That line can shift as a result of constant pressure on each side. If the pressure on one side is reduced in relation to the other, the line may shift. The result of this shift could be legislation directed toward activity that has suddenly ended up on the other side of the line.

            Drug use, especially marijuana use, is an activity that is just over the line that separates criminal from legal behavior. It may also be said that excessive use of alcohol or cigarettes is just on the other side of this line. Any movement in the line may result in policy changes regarding these behaviors. If high authoritarian individuals become more active in the political process, either as actors or supporters of other actors, we can expect changing pressures on either side of this line. Behaviors that are just barely legal, in the minds of the high authoritarians, may suddenly become criminalized. Greater participation by any group has the potential for increasing pressure on either side of the line that separates legal from illegal behavior.

            Authoritarianism may be a variable that influences this pressure to change. As we know, there are many variables involved in a decision to support a particular candidate or issue. Further research may demonstrate the relative importance authoritarianism.


            The relationship of authoritarian attitudes to drug seriousness scores was evaluated in this research. There is a clear relationship. Drug seriousness scores are higher for high authoritarians. We have also found marginal support for the suggestion that low authoritarians rank order the behaviors in a different way. Knowledge about the opinions of low authoritarians may be of little use in an effort to understand the current direction of drug control policy. The opinions of low authoritarians may have little effect on drug control policy since this group has been politically marginalized.

            RWA scores and opinions about the seriousness of crime are both significant predictors of drug legalization attitudes. This is evident in the statistical analysis of these variables as well as in the fact that over 40 percent of the respondents in this group favored marijuana legalization while less than 10 percent favored legalization of all drugs.

            High authoritarians are less likely to support drug legalization. It is likely that high authoritarians will favor punishment as an effort to deter the use of drugs. It may be safe to assume that low authoritarians would see the potential for treating drug use as a medical rather than a criminal problem. Future research could more closely examine the potential impact of increased political power and participation of low authoritarians.

            A major question in this research involves the potential for changes in criminal justice policy as the result of increased participation and support for a particular type of policy maker. Results of this research suggest that more behavior could be criminalized. Future research could specifically address questions regarding crime and punishment. For example, are high authoritarians more likely to increase sanctions for illegal drug use? Would punishment for criminal behaviors become more severe as the result of increased participation of high authoritarians? Is it possible that this change could result in the criminalization or legalization of certain drug related activity? As is often the case, this research raises more questions than answers. Each of these questions should be addressed in future research.


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Creative Commons License

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