New research reveals that individuals with authoritarian political views are more concerned about issues related to terrorism and border control than the prospect of future health pandemics. This finding emerged from an analysis of public perceptions of security threats in 2012 and 2020. Surprisingly, people with authoritarian leanings did not express a desire for stronger government intervention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they embraced individual autonomy.
The study, conducted by Professor Dan Stevens and Professor Susan Banducci from the University of Exeter, along with Dr. Laszlo Horvath from Birkbeck, University of London, examined how COVID-19 was perceived as a security threat. Interestingly, COVID-19 did not disproportionately heighten concerns about social divisions among those with authoritarian views in British society.
Professor Stevens emphasized that different security threats should not be treated as equal, as their impact depends on their nature. Threats that challenge social norms or disrupt social cohesion, such as immigration, tend to trigger distinct responses among authoritarians. COVID-19 was not perceived as such a threat, but the study suggests that perceptions may evolve with future pandemics.
The research compared perceptions of various security threats between 2012 and 2020 and found that while issues like terrorism, the economy, immigration, weak border control, and racial or religious hate crimes remained relatively stable in threat perceptions, health pandemics and environmental issues gained prominence as personal threats in 2020.
The study also noted that authoritarian individuals consistently identified terrorism and border control as threats, regardless of the survey year, and that media coverage played a role in shaping these perceptions.