The Followers: Right-Wing Authoritarians
In addition to being especially submissive to established authority, Altemeyer's research revealed that those he calls right-wing authoritarians also show "general aggressiveness" towards others, when such behavior is "perceived to be sanctioned" by established authorities. Finally, these people are always highly compliant with the social conventions endorsed by society and established authorities. These basic traits, submissiveness to authority and conventionality, are the essence of those Altemeyer describes as right-wing authoritarians. If these traits are not present in some significant (albeit varying) degree, he does not consider the subject to be a right-wing authoritarian. However, these people can, and often do, consistently reveal they have many other interesting traits as well.
Based on Altemeyer's study, as well as those of other social psychologists, I prepared a list of the additional traits that these personalities, both men and women who test high as right-wing authoritarians, often evidence: highly religious, moderate to little education, trust untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions other than their own), mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical toward their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent and contradictory, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarian, severely punitive, demands loyalty and returns it, little self-awareness, usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.
The Leaders: Social Dominators
People who test high as social dominators are also economically conservative and have little tolerance for equality. They consistently agree when asked about statements such as the following: "Some people are just more worthy than others"; "This country would be better off if we cared less about how equal all people were"; and "To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on others." In addition, they will respond in the negative to the proposition that "All humans should be treated equally." (In fact, they are given many more questions when tested; I am merely providing a very small sample.)
Again, I have prepared a listing of the traits revealed in the testing of these remarkably manipulative and cunning personalities, who are typically men: dominating, opposes equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating and bullying, faintly hedonistic, vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheats to win, highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic), mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, tells others what they want to hear, takes advantage of "suckers," specializes in creating false images to sell self, may or may not be religious, usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.
These lists of traits for both right-wing authoritarian followers, and social dominating authoritarian leaders, should be understood as not necessarily describing every person who falls into the type. While many have all the traits, not all will have all, or even most, of them. Most people who test high as authoritarians, whether followers or leaders, have some of these traits, however.
What struck me at first was a sense that many of these qualities seemed to be similar to that of a psychopath or sociopath ("amoral," "pitiless"). John Dean says he calls people who exhibit all of these traits Conservatives Without Conscience. That may be fitting because we often call people who are amoral and have no conscience as sociopaths. However, I admit I may be overreading this.
I've mentioned Altmeyer's work before. But I am still digesting this commentary. However, John Dean's column is worth a read. You can find his prior columns here.