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In this dissertation I argue that authoritarianism is a natural human response to the perception of threat to one’s group. The construct thus represents a response to a largely non-existent threat among dominant group members (e.g., “reverse racism”) and to a real threat among stigmatized group members (e.g., racism). As a result, the term doesn’t have the same negative or pathological connotations for stigmatized minorities that it has for dominant racial group members. This forces us to fundamentally reconsider what authoritarianism is. My primary hypothesis is that perceived discrimination causes higher authoritarianism among stigmatized minorities. Chapter 1 articulates my theory of racial variation in authoritarianism (RVA) and derives hypotheses from it. RVA has many moving parts, and in this chapter I ground most of them in the extant literature. Chapter 2 establishes the empirical anomaly that is this dissertation’s jumping-off point, which is that black Americans are the most authoritarian racial group in America. In this chapter I show that every known study reports that members of racial minority groups are more authoritarian on average than their dominant group counterparts. This finding holds across more than five decades of studies and three scales of authoritarianism (Fascism, Right Wing Authoritarianism, and Child Rearing Values). Chapter 3 uses summary statistics to evaluate several dimensions of the empirical finding of racial variation in authoritarianism. These include this finding’s temporal stability, the shapes of its distributions for numerous racial groups, the temporal stability of these distributions, and the finding’s relationship to the following variables: church attendance, education, need for cognition, ethnocentrism, perceived discrimination, linked fate, and gay rights. In this chapter I show that elevated levels of authoritarianism among stigmatized minorities exist independently of the most intuitive covariates that one might suspect are able to account for the empirical anomaly at the heart of this project. Chapter 4 reports a series of logistic regressions to show that racial discrimination represents a form of intergroup threat among black Americans. This secures a crucial link in my theory, which is that perceived discrimination among minorities functions as and behaves like normative threats do among the mass public. Chapter 5 employs multilevel modeling with post-stratification to estimate the effects of perceived racism among black Americans on authoritarianism from nationally representative surveys and census data. In this chapter I provide the most direct and explicit empirical test of my dissertation’s primary hypothesis, which receives clear and strong support. Chapter 6 concludes with a discussion of future research that my project entails.

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