Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Amber Gaffney

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Maria Iturbide

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Brandilynn Villarreal

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



Extremist governments and regimes have risen to power throughout history and the 2016 U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump raised concerns amongst scholars and politicians that the U.S. government is trending in this direction. Arguably questionable actions conducted by the Trump administration, such as the “Muslim Ban” or the inhumane treatment of migrants at the U.S. border, can be considered extremist in nature and at minimum they mimic the actions of extremist governments. What drives a populace to support extremist governments, particularly a populace raised in democracy? Previous literature and research suggests that under conditions of uncertainty, people are motivated to reduce that uncertainty, often by identifying with a group. Groups that offer members a blueprint on how to think, behave, and feel are particularly attractive for uncertainty reduction. Extremist groups also embody these traits and may thus exploit conditions of uncertainty to gain support. Therefore, people, when experiencing uncertainty, should be motivated to support an extremist government. The current experiment gathered (N = 169) responses in an online setting, and manipulated participants’ uncertainty to examine support for extremist and democratic governments. Results found that under conditions of high uncertainty, people did not display more support of an extremist government in comparison to a democratic government. However, post-hoc analyses find that self-reported uncertainty positively predicted support for an extremist government. Thus, the results of this research may have important implications for research on uncertainty-identity theory and uncertainty’s influence on support for extremism.

Citation Style