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Talking Heads: Measuring Elite Personality Using Speech

Adam Ramey, New York University Abu Dhabi
Jonathan Klingler, Toulouse School of Economics - Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse
Gary E. Hollibaugh, University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science


POLITICAL METHODS: COMPUTATIONAL eJOURNAL

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ADAM RAMEY, New York University Abu Dhabi
Email:
JONATHAN KLINGLER, Toulouse School of Economics - Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse
Email:
GARY E. HOLLIBAUGH, University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science
Email:

Political scientists have long considered ideology, partisanship, and constituency in determining how members of the United States Congress make decisions. Meanwhile, psychologists have held that personality traits play central roles in decision-making. As most psychometric measures of personality are lab- or survey-based, systematic personality estimates for elites have, to date, remained elusive. In this paper, we apply recent advances in machine learning (Mairesse et al. 2007) that connect linguistic cues with known personality correlates to the United States Congress. Using floor speeches from the 104th--113th Congress, we generate estimates of legislators on each of the "Big Five'' personality traits -- Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. We show that these results are robust to concerns about strategic behavior and generally conform with findings in the behavior literature linking ideology with the Big Five (e.g., Gerber et al. 2010).

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