Personality and the Policy Positions of Politicians

Eran Amsalem, Lior Sheffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Politicians’ support of or opposition to concrete policies is uniquely consequential for policymaking, public opinion, and a host of other societal outcomes. Explaining their policy positions is therefore a major research agenda in political science. Here, we evaluate the role of politicians’ personality traits, measured with the Big Five typology, in shaping how liberal or conservative their economic and social policy positions are. While existing research establishes this link among nonelites, it is far from obvious that the same holds for politicians, who have systematically different personality profiles, and whose positions are constrained by party lines. Using an in-person study of 893 legislators in five countries who completed personality questionnaires and provided detailed issue positions, we find that Openness to Experience is strongly and positively predictive of politicians’ liberal positions on both economic and social policies, but a null relationship for Conscientiousness. We also find that Extraversion predicts more conservative economic (but not social) policy positions. We discuss implications for the role of elites’ individual characteristics in policymaking.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Big Five
  • ideology
  • personality
  • policy
  • political elites

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