Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology
Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
University College London; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)
June 3, 2011
This paper presents the largest analysis to date on the influence of the “big five” personality traits on political ideology using a US representative sample (N=14,672). In line with research in political psychology, “openness to experience” is found to predict liberal ideology and “conscientiousness” predicts conservative ideology. The availability of sibling clusters in the data is leveraged to show that these results are also robust to the inclusion of family fixed effects. We also explore the way that personality might interact with environmental influences in the development of ideology. To this end, a variety of childhood experiences are studied that may have a differential effect on political ideology based on a respondent's personality profile. Childhood trauma is found to interact with “openness” in predicting ideology and this triangular relationship is further explored using mediation analysis. These findings provide new evidence for the idea that differences in political ideology are deeply intertwined with variation in the nature and nurture of individual personalities.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Keywords: Ideology, Personality, Big five traits, Childhood trauma, Family fixed effects, Mediation analysisworking papers series
Date posted: June 4, 2011 ; Last revised: August 10, 2011
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