• Magnus Gregersen Glumsøe
  • Nicolaj Mejrsk Jensen
  • Christoffer Svejdal
  • Frederik Svejdal
  • Mikael Gregers Andersen
4. term, Public Administration and Social Science (Master Programme)
This paper aims to test a three-phase model used in a prior project, where the goal was to discover what processes and mechanisms lie behind the decision to believe in conspiracy theories in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark. The thesis statement of this paper is to discover whether there are any universal mechanisms and tendencies in the opinion-formation process, when tested in a broader context and concerning itself with individuals’ membership of extremist parties.
Therefore, this paper set out to discover what socialization processes and opinion-formation processes lie behind the decision to join an extremist orientation, hereby a political extremist party or group. The problem to be assessed in this paper is:

“How can the three-phase model contribute to explain which opinion-formation processes lead individuals to disassociate themselves from the political consensus and join extremist parties?”

The interest of this topic is as presented above developed through the experiences from working with opinion-formation processes before and thus the curiosity as to whether there is any universal tendencies in the opinion-formation processes between the willingness to disregard the government explanation of COVID-19, and later belief in conspiracy theories and the path away from the political consensus and furthermore the acceptance of extremist ideas and ultimately taking membership in political extremist parties or groups. Moreover, this paper seeks to discover not only the possibilities of the same tendencies in the opinion- formation processes between conspiracy theorists and extremists, but also the differences and similarities between different extremist groupings. In order to examine the problem, we have sought out current and former members of left-wing extremism, right-wing extremism as well as members of militant islamism. Thereby you can argue that the search has been fairly broad.

Through qualitative semi-structured interviews, we interviewed the above-mentioned current and former members of extremist parties. There were conducted interviews with 5 informants and additional secondary data in the form of external interviews which were added to ensure that we hit a saturation point regarding a satisfying amount of data. This paper followed a
deductive approach, where the goal was to test the three-phase model which consists of the four theories: Political Motivated Thinking/Political Psychology, Echo Chambers, Political Socialization, and Political Alienation. The combination of these theories made it possible to create a three-phase model, which was formed of the phase of socialization, the phase of information and the phase of escalation. This model helps create an overview of the opinion- formation processes the informants have gone through and map out where the similarities are as well as the differences. Furthermore, these phases help discover the socialization process all the way from childhood and preliminary to their directional motivated information search and ultimately their radicalization process through political activism and their entering into extremist groupings.

The discoveries of this paper is by no means statistically significant given the fact that the empirical field from which this paper’s conclusions are made is limited by the low number of informants. However, the theoretical framework used in this paper, when held against the informants’ opinion-formation process, has generally been consistent with the theoretical assumptions. Moreover, the discoveries align well with the existing literature in the field. Therefore, the contribution that this paper brings to the field of extremist studies lies within the theoretical generalization of other extremist studies where the opinion-formation process is the focus. Especially the work with the phase of information and how directional motivation affects the informants' information-seeking behavior and thereby furthering the radicalization process seems to be less touched on in the scientific field.
Publication date22 Jun 2023
Number of pages143
ID: 532283293