The Nature and Nurture of the Influence of Personality on Political Ideology and Electoral Turnout

24 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 21 Aug 2010

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Using a representative sample of Americans (N=15,599) we present the largest study to date of the influence of the "big five" personality traits on political ideology and election turnout. In line with with prior research in political psychology, we find that "openness to experience" strongly predicts liberal ideology (p=0.000) and that "conscientiousness" strongly predicts conservative ideology (p=0.000). In terms of electoral turnout, we find that "openness", "agreeableness", and "extraversion" positively influence turnout, whereas "neuroticism" depresses turnout and "conscientiousness" has no effect. Using twin design methods on the available twin pairs (N=541) we estimate the heritability of the big five traits to be up to 47%, indicating that personality traits are to a large extent innate and prior to political ideology and behavior. We also investigate contextual interaction effects, and find that childhood trauma mediates the influence of "openness" on liberal ideology (p=0.002). These findings provide new evidence for the fact that political differences are deeply intertwined with variation in the nature and nurture of individual personalities.

Suggested Citation

De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel, The Nature and Nurture of the Influence of Personality on Political Ideology and Electoral Turnout (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643113

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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