Reconsidering the Link Between Self-Reported Personality Traits and Political Preferences
By Bert N. Bakker, University of Amsterdam, Yphtach Lelkes, University of Pennsylvania, and Ariel Malka, Yeshiva University
Research on personality and political preferences generally assumes unidirectional causal influence of the former on the latter. However, there are reasons to believe that citizens might adopt what they perceive as politically congruent psychological attributes, or at least be motivated to view themselves as having these attributes. We test this hypothesis in a series of studies. Results of preregistered panel analyses in three countries suggest reciprocal causal influences between self-reported personality traits and political preferences. In two two-wave survey experiments, a subtle political prime at the beginning of a survey resulted in self-reported personality traits that were more aligned with political preferences gauged in a previous assessment. We discuss how concurrent assessment within the context of a political survey might overestimate the causal influence of personality traits on political preferences and how political polarization might be exacerbated by political opponents adopting different personality characteristics or self-perceptions thereof.