I am best known for research I first started presenting two decades ago that predicted the rise of 'Far Right' candidates and politics under exactly the kinds of conditions we now confront. (Go here for a review). But my research goes much further than that, being a general account of the conditions under which a large proportion (around a third) of humanity, who harbor (relatively immutable) predispositions to favor 'oneness and sameness' over freedom and diversity, come to find their societies and polities intolerable, and push back with a vengeance. In essence, it is about the limits to liberal democracy.  But it is written with a desire to save liberal democracy (from itself).

As I noted back in 2005: "Democracy is most secure, and tolerance is maximized, when we design systems to accommodate how people actually are. Because some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy" (The Authoritarian Dynamic, p. 335).

My research on authoritarianism and 'Far Right' politics uses psychological theories and methods (in particular, Randomized Controlled Trials) to explain human behavior. These days, I also use those same theories and methods (particularly RCTs) to shift human behavior... via more effective communications and campaigns (of every kind), including designing and embedding messages that de-activate authoritarianism and diminish expressions of intolerance and racism in a society.



I'm a behavioral economist with a PhD in Political Psychology. Formerly an academic (Princeton, Duke), I left academia with a strong desire to apply my unique combination of talents and skills to the resolution of pressing, real-world problems, and this is what motivates all of the enterprises described here.

The Authoritarian Dynamic

Cambridge University Press, 2005

Three Kinds of 'Conservatism'

Psychological Inquiry, 2009

'Conservatism', Context-Dependence, and Cognitive Incapacity

Psychological Inquiry, 2009

Authoritarianism is Not a Momentary Madness 

Karen Stenner & Jonathan Haidt in Can it happen here?  C. Sunstein, ed., Harper Collins, 2018.

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A selection of my research publications on authoritarianism, conservatism and politics:

Recent media articles that cover my political research.

Jul 21, 2020

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

The Whole of Liberal Democracy Is in Grave Danger at This Moment

Aug 08, 2019

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism

Jan 21, 2020

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

Why Trump Persists

Feb 01, 2017

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

How Conservatives Can Save America

Jun 02, 2020

The Atlantic

Anne Applebaum

Resist the Urge to Simplify the Story

Dec 06, 2017

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears

Apr 04, 2018

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

The Contract With Authoritarianism

Mar 10, 2019

The Atlantic

David Frum

If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will

Feb 04, 2019


Adam Forrest

Democracy undergoing 'alarming' decline around the world, study finds

Jul 13, 2018

The Guardian

Sheri Berman

Why Identity Politics Benefits the Right More Than the Left

Mar 25, 2018

Pacific Standard

Tom Jacobs

Authoritarianism: The Terrifying Trait that Trump Triggers

Nov 08, 2017

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

Now It's Democrats Who Feel Their Values Threatened—and Are Voting

Jul 09, 2016

The American Interest

Jonathan Haidt

When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism

Dec 24, 2016

The New Yorker

Maria Konnikova

The Psychological Research That Helps Explain the Election


Jun 21, 2017

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

The End of the Left and the Right as We Knew Them


Jun 30, 2017

The Atlantic

Peter Beinart

How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration


Apr 03, 2017

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

Why Trump Will Find It Hard to Pivot From Bigotry to Bipartisanship

Nov 29, 2016

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

Making Up Is Hard to Do

Feb 29, 2016


Amanda Taub

The Rise of American Authoritarianism

The New York Times

Thomas B. Edsall

The Trump Voter Paradox

May 01, 2017

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

Moderation in Defense of Liberty Is No Vice

May 15, 2018

The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf

How Rhetoric on the Left Fuels Bigotry on the Right

Nov 09, 2016

New Statesman

Eric Kaufmann

It’s NOT the economy, stupid: busting the myth of how Donald Trump won

Aug 11, 2016

The American Conservative

Rod Dreher

Inside The Head Of Trump Voters

Jan 29, 2016


Matthew MacWilliams

Channeling the dark side of Trump’s supporters

Oct 18, 2018


Teri Kanefield

Why Trump’s supporters will believe any lie he tells

Dec 18, 2016