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Nothing to Worry About: Why Liberals Underestimate Dominant Leaders and Act Complacently
Short Title: Liberals Liberals Underestimate Dominant Leaders Abstract: When dominant-authoritarian leaders are successful, political liberals overwhelmingly express shock and disappointment. Beyond party affiliation, we offer a psychologically grounded explanation contending the prevalence of a systematic bias among liberals. We argue that liberals, compared to conservatives, underestimate the success of dominant-authoritarian leaders, and that this systematic underestimation makes liberal complacent, overconfident, and less inclined to exercise their vote. We test our hypotheses across five studies (one pre-registered), including large-scale field data, four experimental studies with varied contexts, and a combined sample of more than 215,000 observations from 93 countries and spanning the past three decades. In doing so, our work explains the continued underestimation of dominant leaders and consequent surprise from political liberals during critical elections, and why underestimating the success of dominant leaders may lead liberals to act complacently and paradoxically increase such leaders’ chances of success.