Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology

46 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2011 Last revised: 27 Jun 2013

Date Written: January 24, 2013


This paper studies the relationship between the "big five" personality traits and political ideology in a large 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 family clusters in the data is leveraged to show that these results are robust to a sibling fixed-effects specification. The way that personality might interact with environmental influences in the development of ideology is also explored. 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 complex relationship is investigated 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.

Keywords: Ideology, Personality, Big five traits, Childhood trauma, Family fixed effects, Mediation analysis

Suggested Citation

De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel, Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology (January 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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