Need for security and system fairness on the political extremes


  • Hulda Þórisdóttir
  • Eva Heiða Önnudóttir



System fairness, left–right extremism, need for security, political trust.


We advance and empirically test the idea that people on both the far right and far left will be more likely than political moderates to perceive the system as fair, as long as it serves their heightened needs for security. We argue that political extremists may be especially drawn to systems that offer certainty and security. As long as ideological extremists are not alienated from the political system in general, they will, therefore, be especially motivated to see the system as fair, in particular, if extremism is coupled with a heightened need for security. We test this notion using data from Iceland, a country with a wide left–right spread in terms of the political opinions of both parties and people and which was, at the time of the study, still reeling from an economic crisis that strongly affected political trust and threatened people’s sense of security. We analyzed nationally representative data from the European Social Survey in 2012 (N = 752). The results showed a significant three-way interaction between political extremism, the need for security, and political trust in predicting perceived system fairness. The people most likely to perceive the system as fair were political extremists, with relatively high political trust and need for security. The results are discussed in light of context effects and how people on the left and right might have higher needs for security with different threats in mind.

Author Biographies

Hulda Þórisdóttir

Assistant Professor at University of Iceland.

Eva Heiða Önnudóttir

Postdoctoral Scholar at University of Iceland.




How to Cite

Þórisdóttir, H., & Önnudóttir, E. H. (2015). Need for security and system fairness on the political extremes. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 11(2), 115–138.



Peer Reviewed Articles