The Relationship Between Personality Traits and Political Views Examining the link between the personality traits that an individual exhibits and their respective political viewpoints through a meta-analytical perspective

Numerous prior studies investigated the relationship between individual personality traits and the political viewpoints of individuals. Specifically, the results of such studies indicated that personality traits were significantly related to political attitudes. However, prior studies largely analyzed the political perspectives of individuals solely through the contrast between liberal and conservative ideologies. Grounded in this context, this proposed study will investigate the relationship between individual personality traits examined through the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa & McCrae, 1992) and the political values of individuals as assessed by the Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018). The results will indicate any significant relationships between individual personality traits and political values as well as any interaction effects between personality traits. In accordance with prior literature, it is expected that significant relationships will be found between personality traits and political values, specifically with higher levels of openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism predicting higher rates of equality, globe, liberty, and progress values, and with higher rates of conscientiousness predicting higher rates of markets, nation, authority, and tradition. It is predicted that extraversion rates will not be significantly related to higher rates of any political value. Such a finding would support the existence of personality trait differences amongst individuals with divergent political perspectives.

Keywords: personality, political attitudes, Big Five personality traits, partisanship, political orientation, political values

The political ideology that a given individual identified with has been widely recognized as related to and predicted by the individual’s personality in numerous studies (Cooper, Golden, & Socha, 2013; Furnham & Fenton-O’Creevy, 2018; McAdams & Albaugh, 2008; Webster, 2018). Moreover, as with other personality traits, an individual’s political viewpoints has been found to be related to other personality features that an individual possessed (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). Given the intensifying polarization between opposing political sides in recent years, perhaps most prominently in the United States, the interaction between personality and political viewpoints has consequently become an increasingly important topic to examine (Webster, 2018).

A study conducted by Cooper et al. (2013) assessed the influence of the Five-Factor Model of personality on the political viewpoints and characteristics of individuals within the United States. In other words, Cooper et al. (2013) examined various personality traits and their impact on the political opinions that people held. The Five-Factor Model of personality identified five key personality traits: openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion, that together summarized an individual’s personality (Cooper et al., 2013). Importantly, these five traits had been found to be relatively stable throughout the lifespan of an individual (Costa & McCrae, 1988). In brief summary, openness to experience refers to the extent to which an individual is open to exploring novel ideas, topics, and experiences, agreeableness refers to the extent to which an individual is appreciative, generous, and kind, conscientiousness refers to how well an individual is able to control their impulses, neuroticism refers to the emotional stability of an individual, and extraversion refers to how outgoing an individual is in their social interactions (Cooper et al., 2013). The study conducted by Cooper et al. (2013) examined the influence of these personality traits on the political opinions held by individuals and specifically explored how these factors affected political ideology, partisanship, and efficacy, as well as their effect on voter registration and the extent to which individuals tended to discuss politics with their friends. The researchers administered a three-part questionnaire to their subjects, wherein the first section assessed the personality of the participants, the second section assessed their political perspectives, and the third section consisted of demographic questions (Cooper et al., 2013). The results of the study indicated that individuals who scored higher on openness were more likely to be liberal, that individuals who scored higher on agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to be conservative, and that individuals who were more extraverted were more likely to discuss politics with their friends but did not significantly differ in terms of political affiliation (Cooper et al., 2013). On the other hand, Cooper et al. (2013) found that neuroticism did not influence political viewpoints.

Notably, different countries had exhibited significantly different political environments, and therefore the relationships that researchers (Cooper et al., 2013) found between personality and political viewpoints may have been affected by this fact. In relation to this, a study conducted by Aidt and Rauh (2018) examined the associations between personality and political party preference in England. The researchers noted that whereas personality was relatively stable throughout the lifespan, political party preferences had both a stable and dynamic component (Aidt & Rauh, 2018).

Their research also found that the Big Five personality traits influenced the stable component of political party identification, and that personality traits affected party identification “conditional on an individual’s cognitive skills” (Aidt & Rauh, 2018, p. 2). The researchers remarked that the political identification of a given individual with a political party was determined by a complex system of factors (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). Specifically, partisanship was determined by a combination of fixed and flexible factors, wherein fixed factors included personality, cognitive skills, gender, and cohort, and where flexible factors included individual life-cycle factors and common macro factors including the present economic situation as well as issue salience (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). The results indicated that individuals who identified with the British Conservative Party tended to score low on agreeableness, low on openness, high on extraversion, high on conscientiousness, and low on neuroticism (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). In contrast, the individuals who identified with the British Labour Party tended to score high on agreeableness, high on openness, moderately on extraversion, low on conscientiousness, and high on neuroticism (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). Therefore, the findings of this study indicated that individuals who identified with the two opposing political parties were also significantly different in terms of all Big Five personality traits. The researchers also remarked that the results for English voters were consistent with the results found in other countries (including the USA, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Greece, amongst others) in that supporters of left-leaning parties both within and outside England tended to score highly on agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism whereas supporters of right-leaning parties tended to score highly on conscientiousness (Aidt & Rauh, 2018 ). Another study conducted on English subjects by Furnham and Fenton-O’Creevy (2018) similarly found that individuals who scored higher on openness and agreeableness tended to be left-leaning while individuals who scored higher on conscientiousness tended to be right-leaning.

In sum, as the results of the aforementioned studies indicate, individuals with left-wing and right-wing tendencies were also found to be significantly dissimilar in terms of their personality traits. Importantly, the recent hyperpolarization of contemporary politics had led to the phenomenon wherein individuals “no longer affiliate with parties and candidates through positive attachments but, rather, identify against the party and candidates they view with enmity, fear, and suspicion” (Webster, 2018, pp. 127-128, emphasis in original). In relation to this, Webster (2018) examined how differences in the displayed Big Five personality traits of a given individual predicted the extent to which the individual disliked the opposing political party and the extent to which they displayed this distaste. The results of this study indicated that individuals who were higher in extraversion were significantly less likely to be negatively partisan and also that individuals who were higher in agreeableness tended to be less negative towards the opposing party and its supporters (Webster, 2018).

Another important modern trend that had been observed by researchers was the rise in populist movements (Fatke, 2018). Fatke (2018) investigated which personality traits were associated with populist attitudes and also whether personality traits were related to the tendency of individuals to increasingly identify with populist attitudes in a given electoral campaign. The results indicated that agreeableness and neuroticism were significantly and positively related to populist attitudes in both the UK and Germany, whereas openness was significantly related to populist attitudes only in the UK (Fatke, 2018). Moreover, no significant difference was found between introverts and extroverts in relation to identification with populist attitudes (Fatke, 2018). Therefore, the study conducted by Fatke (2018) implicated personality differences in predicting political affiliation, a result that was in line with other studies.

In regard to other aspects of personality, a study conducted by McAdams and Albaugh (2008) found that individuals who were politically conservative and individuals who were politically liberal differed in terms of the lives that they imagined without the presence of faith. The researchers stated that religious and political beliefs were reported to be highly connected by Americans (McAdams & Albaugh, 2008). Interestingly, a large proportion of both conservative and liberal voters were found to identify themselves as Christian, which according to McAdams and Albaugh (2008) suggested the presence of some fundamental difference between the two groups. McAdams and Albaugh (2008) reported that both conservative and religious beliefs had been explained as defense mechanisms against fear, particularly in regard to fear of mortality, uncertainty, and threats to the societal status quo. In contrast to this, individuals who adhered to a liberal ideology tended to fear the prospect of emptiness in life; or in other words, they feared a lack of purpose and meaning (McAdams & Albaugh, 2008). The researchers assessed a sample of observant Christians who were politically disparate through self-report measures as well as through a life-story interview, which was subsequently coded for Impulse Control, Societal Breakdown, and Life Fulfillment (McAdams & Albaugh, 2008). The results indicated that conservatives tended to imagine a life without faith as a life that lacked impulse control, was high in addictive behaviors, and was high in human selfishness, which was in contrast to liberals who tended to imagine a faithless life as low in emotional intensity (McAdams & Albaugh, 2008). This finding strongly suggested that individuals identifying with different political viewpoints also differed in terms of other personality aspects such as religiosity.

Moreover, according to Schein and Gray (2015 ), conservative and liberal individuals, despite their moral disagreements on a plurality of issues, were similar in the sense that moral cognition for both conservatives and liberals was based in a harm-based template. In other words, despite the fact that conservatives and liberals morally disagreed on a variety of issues, their moral justifications for their respective standpoints stemmed from similarly organized moral mechanisms. Specifically, the results of the study conducted by Schein and Gray (2015) indicated that individuals who identified as conservative and liberal both reported the harm-related moral concern as the most accessible and most important moral consideration, as opposed to the other moral concerns of fairness, disloyalty, disobedience, and impurity. This finding implied that despite the many differences between conservatives and liberals, the two groups of individuals nevertheless possessed a similar moral cognition structure (Schein & Gray, 2015). In other words, despite the specific differences in certain personality traits between left-wing and right-wing individuals that were found in various studies, these two groups were not found to diverge in terms of all personality traits.

Given the fact that the results of these studies largely indicated that conservative and liberal individuals differed in terms of their personality, the current study was designed to extend and replicate prior findings so as to gain further understanding of how individual personality traits and political viewpoints interact. Prior studies have examined the relationship between personality and political perspectives, but largely examined political perspectives only in terms of overall political affiliations in the context of the liberal-conservative political dichotomy. Consequently, the present study aimed to explore the relationships between an individual’s Big Five personality traits as defined by Costa and McCrae (1992), and the same individual’s political viewpoints in terms of their separate perspectives on economics, diplomacy, civics, and social issues, as captured by the Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018). Specifically, the research question of the present study was “Do individuals with mutually divergent political standpoints on economics, diplomacy, civics, and social issues also differ in terms of their respective individual personality traits?”

Proposed Method

Participants
250 individuals residing in Southern Ontario will be recruited via social media advertisements to take part in the study. The aim will be to have the study participant demographics be representative of the demographics of Southern Ontario in terms of race, gender, and age. Advertising targeting adjustments will be performed as necessary in order to maximize representativeness. Subjects will be compensated for their participation with an electronic gift card with a value of $10 following completion of the study.

Materials
The participants that will take part in the study will be presented with a two-part questionnaire in electronic format. The first part will consist of the 240-item Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa & McCrae, 1992), whereas the second part will consist of the 70-item Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018). The response options of both questionnaires consist of 5 options, ranging from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”, with the “Agree”, “Neutral”, and “Disagree” options located in respective order in between the former two response choices.

The Eight Values Inventory questionnaire consists of four independent axes – economic, diplomatic, state, and society, wherein each axis is composed of two opposing values (Tristan, 2018 ). Specifically, the economic axis contains the values of equality and markets, the diplomatic axis contains the values of nation and globe, the state axis contains the values of liberty and authority, and the society axis contains the values of tradition and progress (Tristan, 2018). A description of each of the values follows.

Participants who score highly on the equality value prioritize the equal distribution of wealth, tend to support progressive tax codes, and social programs, while participants who score highly on the markets value tend to support rapid growth of the economy, lower taxes, privatization, and deregulation (Tristan, 2018). Participants who score highly on the nation value tend to be patriotic and nationalistic, valuing sovereignty and military strength, while participants who score highly on the globe value tend to be globalist, valuing peaceful policy and diplomacy (Tristan, 2018). Participants who score highly on the liberty value believe in strong civil liberties and believe in democracy, while participants who score highly on the authority value believe in strong state power (Tristan, 2018). Finally, participants who score highly on the tradition value believe in traditional values and a strict adherence to a moral code, while participants who score highly on the progress value tend to believe in social change (Tristan, 2018). The full Eight Values Inventory questionnaire was included in the Appendix.

Procedure
The study will be conducted in a computer laboratory at Wilfrid Laurier University, in groups of 20 to 30 at a time. Each subject will access the questionnaire electronically at their own computer workstation via a unique hyperlink and will consequently be able to move through the questions at their own pace.

The independent variables will be the five personality traits reported by the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa & McCrae, 1992); namely, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The dependent variables will be the eight values of the Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018); namely, equality, markets, nation, globe, liberty, authority, tradition, and progress. The data collected will be analyzed using a 5x8 factorial MANOVA. The results of this analysis will reveal the significant relationships between each of the personality traits and the eight values, if any, as well as the relationship between all personality traits in combination and the eight values, if such is found to exist. For example, a potential finding could be that individuals scoring higher in agreeableness would be likely to also score higher in equality, globe, and liberty values. The results will also indicate whether any interaction effects occur between two or more of the independent variables.

Expected Results

A 5 (personality trait: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, or neuroticism) X 8 (political value: equality, markets, nation, globe, liberty, authority, tradition, or progress) factorial MANOVA will be constructed for further data analysis. A separate composite variable will consequently be constructed for each main effect as well as for the interaction effect.

It is expected that Box’s Test of Equality of Covariance Matrices will indicate that the assumption of homogeneity of covariance was met, p > .05. Moreover, it is also expected that Levene’s Test of Equality of Error Variances will indicate that the assumption of the homogeneity of variance will be met for each outcome variable, p > .05. It is also expected that Pillai’s Trace will indicate a value of p < .05 for four of the five predictor variables, with the exception of extraversion , thereby demonstrating evidence of a significant main effect for four of the five predictor variables. Given this, it is consequently predicted that there will be significant main effects of four of the five predictor variables in each of the outcome variables, indicating that there were significant main effects among the independent groups for each outcome, p < .05.

Based on the results of prior findings, it is predicted that higher levels of openness will be significantly associated with higher rates of equality, r = .69, p < .05, higher rates of globe, r = .51, p < .05, liberty, r = .72, p < .05, and progress, r = .61, p < .05. It is also predicted that higher levels of conscientiousness will be significantly associated with higher rates of markets, r = .66, p < .05, nation, r = .59, p < .05, authority, r = .73, p < .05, and tradition, r = .67, p < .05. It is predicted that higher levels of extraversion will not be significantly associated with higher rates of any of the political values. It is predicted that higher levels of agreeableness will be significantly associated with higher rates of equality, r = .86, p < .05, globe, r = .73, p < .05, liberty, r = .76, p < .05, and progress, r = .67, p < .05. Finally, it is also predicted that higher levels of neuroticism will be significantly associated with higher rates of equality, r = .59, p < .05, globe, r = .68, p < .05, liberty, r = .71, p < .05, and progress, r = .77, p < .05.

Furthermore, post-hoc analyses will be conducted in order to further explore these expected effects. It is expected that the post-hoc values will indicate that there were significant differences between the different predictor variables, p < .05. The results will also indicate the Estimated Marginal Means, which will show the means and standard errors of each of the outcome variables. Finally, the results will be validated through the bootstrap method, in order to produce 95% confidence intervals for the statistical differences described prior.

Discussion

The goal of this study will be to examine the relationships between the personality traits and political views of individuals. The study will examine individual personality traits through the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa & McCrae, 1992) and political views through the use of the Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018). The specific political values that will be examined will be equality, markets, nation, globe, liberty, authority, tradition, and progress. It is expected that significant relationships will be found between personality traits and political views. Specifically, it is predicted that higher levels of openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism will be related to higher rates of equality, globe, liberty, and progress , while higher levels of conscientiousness will be related to higher rates of markets, nation, authority, and tradition . It is also predicted that higher levels of extraversion will not be significantly related to higher rates of any of the political values. Such findings would be in line with the findings obtained in prior literature.

Specifically, prior research indicated that individuals who scored higher on openness were more likely to be liberal while individuals who scored higher on agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to be conservative (Cooper et al., 2013). The same study found that neuroticism did not appear to be related to the political viewpoints of individuals (Cooper et al., 2013). On the other hand, the results of a study conducted by Aidt and Rauh (2018) in Britain indicated that individuals who supported the Conservative Party tended to score lower on agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism and higher on extraversion and on conscientiousness. On the other hand, Aidt and Rauh (2018) found that the individuals who supported the Labour Party tended to score higher on agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism and lower on conscientiousness. The researchers also noted the existence of both stable and dynamic components of political affiliation (Aidt & Rauh, 2018). Furnham and Fenton-O’Creevy (2018) similarly found that left-leaning individuals tended to score higher on openness and agreeableness while right-leaning individuals tended to score higher on conscientiousness.

Other research on the relationships between personality traits and political views included the research conducted by Fatke (2018) which suggested that agreeableness and neuroticism were significantly and positively related to populist attitudes, and the research conducted by McAdams and Albaugh (2008) which indicated that conservative and liberal individuals differed in terms of the lives that they imagined without the presence of religious faith. Finally, Schein and Gray (2015) reported that despite their differences, both conservative and liberal individuals seemed to possess a similar moral cognition structure, within which harm was the principal moral concern for both groups.

As noted previously and as reported in prior studies, geographic differences exist in terms of the relationships between personality and political viewpoints, likely resultant from the different political environments that exist in various countries around the world. Therefore, a limitation of the proposed study is its narrow geographic focus. While the results may be indicative of the relationships between personality and political standpoints among Southern Ontarians, they are unlikely to be generalizable to the rest of the world. For this reason, a future study could investigate the differences in the relationships between personality and political viewpoints for individuals residing in different countries. Moreover, more research needs to be conducted on the reliability of the Eight Values Inventory (EVI) (Tristan, 2018) and it is possible that an alternative assessment of political views could be used and could consequently produce different results. It is worth reiterating that both personality and political perspectives are complex concepts that can therefore be analyzed and assessed from a variety of different perspectives.

REFERENCES

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vFatke, M. (2019). The personality of populists: How the Big Five traits relate to populist attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 138-151. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.018

viFurnham, A., & Fenton-O'Creevy, M. (2018). Personality and political orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 129, 88-91. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.03.020

viiMcAdams, D. P., & Albaugh, M. (2008). What if there were no God? Politically conservative and liberal Christians imagine their lives without faith. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(6), 1668-1672. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2008.07.013

viiSchein, C., & Gray, K. (2015). The Unifying Moral Dyad. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(8), 1147-1163. doi:10.1177/0146167215591501

ixTristan, B. (2018). 8values political inventory. Phoenix, AZ: Eight Values Inventory.

xWebster, S. W. (2018). It’s Personal: The Big Five Personality Traits and Negative Partisan Affect in Polarized U.S. Politics. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(1), 127-145. doi:10.1177/0002764218756925.