Illegitimacy is Dangerous: How Authorities Experience and React to Illegitimacy


Research on legitimacy has focused on subordinate groups to the exclusion of authority figures. The present research explores how authorities experience concerns with their own legitimacy. We do so in the context of law enforcement asked to enact a legitimacy-challenging policy: cross-deputization (requiring police to enforce immigration laws similar to Arizona’s SB1070).We expect that authorities’ perceptions of their own legitimacy rest on two factors: a) their own judgments of policies they enforce; and b) how they imagine subordinates would react to the enforcement of those policies. We examine the role of these factors on officers’ sense of anxiety and physical safety. Results reveal that officers’ feelings of safety are driven both by their own views and, to a greater extent, by how they imagine subordinates would react to the policy. These results demonstrate the importance of police legitimacy to officers’ perceptions of their own safety, a vital factor in maintaining low levels of police/community conflict.

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Goff, P. , Epstein, L. , Mentovich, A. & Reddy, K. (2013). Illegitimacy is Dangerous: How Authorities Experience and React to Illegitimacy. Psychology, 4, 340-344. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.43A049.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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