Graduation Date

Spring 2022

Document Type



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

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Amber Gaffney

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Amanda Hahn

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Stephanie Souter, M.A.

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff


Uncertainty, Social identity theory, Extremism, Deprivation, Group processes, Relative deprivation, Populism, Social media, Self categorization, Prototypicality

Subject Categories



The present study investigates the influence of leadership messages on support for extremism using a social identity framework. Specifically, the study highlights the potential role of populist deprivation rhetoric and self-uncertainty in generating support for leaders and extremism. The study seeks to fill a gap in the existing research to understand the use of deprivation rhetoric as a direct process of populist leadership. Political extremism can serve to reduce feelings of uncertainty. Group relative deprivation results from a social comparison in which a person believes another individual or group is denying them something to which they feel entitled. Leaders can embed messages which highlight that their group is deprived in comparison to other groups. Manifesting follower’s feelings of group relative deprivation in conditions of uncertainty is likely to fuel strong identification with the ingroup and thus increase support for extremism towards the outgroup. Stoking intergroup fires increases ingroup identity salience and can create support for the leader. We predicted that a leader’s message that includes populist deprivation rhetoric would be associated with more extreme support from followers when compared to a message without populist deprivation rhetoric, and that this impact would be enhanced in conditions of uncertainty. To assess this prediction, we recruited an online sample of Democrat and Republican (N = 302) Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers through Amazon Cloud Research. We manipulated leadership rhetoric through a fabricated Twitter post accredited to a leader from the participants’ favored political party, and subsequently measured participants’ responses to a battery of survey items. Our primary hypothesis was significant. The results of this study suggest that populist deprivation rhetoric may influence support for extremism. Participants exposed to an in-party message that used populist deprivation rhetoric were significantly more likely to support extremism through violence and self-sacrifice when compared to participants from the non-deprivation rhetoric condition. The findings of the study, collectively, have implications for understanding growing political polarization and extremism, as well as potential room for more research in understanding ways to attenuate these processes and substantiate the study of populism from a social identity framework.

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location


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