Political disagreement in intergroup terms: Contextual variation and the influence of power

Lean O'BRIEN, Craig McGarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


In two studies we examined justificatory attributions made in the face of political
disagreement. Study 1 showed that Australian supporters and opponents of Australian involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq made stereotypical attributions that justified the superiority of the in-group over the out-group. Stereotypical attributions were consistent with the justification that the supporters of the war had been misled by dishonest political leaders. Study 2 replicated this pattern with supporters and opponents of Australia’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. It also identified pragmatism as a dimension that dominant, government-aligned, groups may use to justify the superiority of the in-group over the out-group. In both studies political leaders were seen as more competent than members of the public. The results show the influence of intergroup power and within-group leader/supporter distinctions on people’s attributions about political disagreement. They point to the power of social psychological theory to help analyse important contemporary political concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-98
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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