Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Fall 10-26-2022


Lukaszewicz, T. 2022. Who Fears Strangers and Spiders: Political Ideology and Feeling Threatened. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Copyright Thomas Lukaszewicz 2022.


In this study, I evaluated the correlations between threat sensitivities and political ideology. Two hypotheses were tested. First, I hypothesized that conservatives would have higher social threat sensitivity than liberals, with social threat defined as a threat dependent on outgroup or social actions (Barclay & Benard, 2020). Second, I hypothesized that conservatives would have higher disgust sensitivity than liberals. To test these and related hypotheses I used a 2018 Qualtrics national demographically representative sample that included 1031 participants. To operationalize threat sensitivity, I used items asking participants to rate how threatened they felt by various fears. These individual items were then grouped by threat type: social, asocial, and disgust sensitive. Political ideology was operationalized through a Wilson-Patterson Conservatism Scale of issue positions. Conservatives were also broken into sub-groups- economic, social, and securitarian using the relevant Wilson Patterson items. My analysis did not find support for the initial hypotheses. Instead, compared to liberals, conservatives reported being less fearful of all fear types. Further analysis, however, revealed that only economic conservatives were less fearful of threats. In other words, social conservatives and securitarian conservatives were not LESS fearful than liberals. As such, this study provides the basis for further research regarding threat sensitivity and political identification.