Political and Religious Extremism: Measuring and Explaining Explicit and Implicit Attitudes

Research question/goal: 

While much research has been done on right-wing populist parties and populist attitudes, there is surprisingly little research on political and religious extremism, which rejects not only the liberal forms of democracy, as populists do, but democracy in general. Such extremist attitudes can be found among the political right and left, but also among religious groups that attach more importance to religious rules than to the constitutions in their countries. The first aim of this project is to develop an innovative survey-based instrument to measure the similarities and differences between the various forms of political and religious extremism. Given the problem of social desirability bias in this field, we also propose to measure implicit extremist attitudes by means of an Implicit Association Test. This will allow us to investigate (1) how extremism can be conceptualised and measured attitudinally and how the potential of left-wing, right-wing, and Christian and Muslim religious extremism among the public can be assessed. The second aim is to compare explanatory factors of extremist views and to analyse how different forms of extremism can be explained by similar or diverging factors. In this way, we can assess (2) how the causes and consequences of these extremisms are interrelated. The third aim is to study the relationship between these extremist groups as well as between extremists and non-extremists. This will allow us to analyse (3) how extremists are perceived by others and to what extent the tensions between political parties are reflected at the individual level and thus constitute social tensions that become relevant in daily life. To test our arguments, two surveys each—with 500 Muslims and 1,500 native non-Muslims—will be conducted in Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain.

Current stage: 

In 2022, we have conducted our first main survey in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. The main objective of the survey was to test new survey instruments to measure explicit and implicit extremist attitudes. We have finished a first research paper, in which we develop an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure general implicit extremist attitudes. We find that implicit extremist attitudes are positively but weakly correlated with existing explicit measures. This indicates that implicit measures capture different parts of the population, i.e. those who either do not want to state their attitudes or those who do not know their attitudes. At the same time, we have started to validate new survey instruments to measure explicit forms of extremist attitudes. One of the aims of these analyses is to find the commonalities and differences between right-, left-wing and religious extremism.

Fact sheet

2020 to 2023
Data Sources: 
Geographic Space: 
Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands