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Title: Right-Wing Protective Popular Nationalism and the Desire to Protect the Australian Way of Life
Contributor(s): Flannery, Belinda Jane  (author); Watt, Susan  (supervisor)orcid ; Schutte, Nicola  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2021-12-08
Copyright Date: 2021-04
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Over the past decade, a surge of right-wing populism has occurred across the globe. High populist votes have been found in regions experiencing economic challenges (especially following the financial crisis of 2007-2008), high unemployment rates, and rising immigrant populations. Examples are the Brexit vote of 2020 in the United Kingdom and the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, where populist rhetoric centered on immigration and multiculturalism and was used by conservative populist leaders in a bid to appeal to the people. The popular nationalism literature has argued that such rhetoric contributes to a climate of fear, where the ingroup perceives the "other" (the outgroup) as threatening, which in turn creates symbolic boundaries of national inclusion and exclusion.

The current research explored an analysis of popular nationalism in Australia, which proposed that symbolic boundaries of national inclusion and exclusion are based on perceptions of cultural threat to the nation and the national way of life. From this, we introduced the concept of right-wing protective popular nationalism (RWPPN), which concerns the desire to protect the dominant culture and way of life from outside cultural differences. This construct is based on a four-point interdisciplinary framework in which RWPPN is theoretically derived from political science and sociology, conceptually related to social psychology constructs, and contextually related to contemporary political and societal phenomena. RWPPN is theorised to originate in and be strengthened by right-wing populist rhetoric and is measured as an individual differences variable reflecting the individual's desire to protect a particular way of life.

We conducted four studies that were reported in two journal articles and a book chapter. Studies 1 and 2 operationalised RWPPN as a social psychological construct and generated a new psychometric tool, the RWPPN Scale, which measures this novel construct. These two studies found preliminary evidence of RWPPN in a general sample of the Australian population and provided validation for the RWPPN Scale. As hypothesised, RWPPN related to established social psychological constructs, including symbolic threat, social dominance orientation (SDO), and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). The results found support for RWPPN as a unique construct. RWPPN was also related to national identity, opposition to multiculturalism, prejudice, and negativity towards ethnic minorities living in Australia (emotional responses of fear, anger, and aggressive tendencies). In Study 2, the effects of RWPPN on aggressive tendencies held when controlling for SDO and RWA. RWPPN also mediated the relationship between RWA and aggressive tendencies.

Study 3 offered theoretical advances regarding the connections between RWPPN and conservative populism in Australia. Using audience segmentation, this study demonstrated that a population could be segmented into groups that varied in their level of RWPPN and a range of psychological profiling variables that relate to right-wing populism. The results suggested that RWPPN is associated with notions of national identity, negative consequences for ethnic minorities living in Australia, and a preference for monoculturalism. Given the multicultural nature of Australian society, these findings suggested that prevalent high RWPPN would have negative consequences for social cohesion.

Study 4 extended the findings of the previous studies regarding the relationship between RWPPN and aggressive tendencies towards ethnic minorities living in Australia by exploring the moderating effects of RWPPN on aggressive tendencies. A series of multiple regression analyses found that RWPPN predicted aggressive tendencies towards ethnic minority groups living in Australia. Furthermore, RWPPN moderated the effects of nationally related variables (collective narcissism, identity fusion, and threat perceptions) on these aggressive tendencies.

This research program provides preliminary evidence for RWPPN as a novel social psychological construct in contemporary Australian society. The results indicate that high RWPPN sentiment is associated with an exclusive sense of national belonging and opposition to multiculturism and predicts negative outcomes for ethnic minority groups living in Australia, including aggressive tendencies towards them. Future research is required to test the causal connections between RWPPN sentiment and political populist rhetoric and ascertain if RWPPN sentiment is present outside Australia. These future directions are important and necessary as the current research suggests that RWPPN can shed light on the implications and consequences for intergroup dynamics of desiring to protect the national culture and way of life.

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 170113 Social and Community Psychology
170199 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Please contact if you require access to this thesis for the purpose of research or study.
Appears in Collections:School of Psychology
Thesis Doctoral

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