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Political Psychology: The Role of Personality in Politics

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Some individuals are characterized as being empathetic, sentimental, and strongly attached or bonded to others (i.e., individuals scoring higher on the personality trait of ‘emotionality’). Other individuals, by contrast, are characterized by a lack of empathy, callousness, and interpersonal manipulation ...

Some individuals are characterized as being empathetic, sentimental, and strongly attached or bonded to others (i.e., individuals scoring higher on the personality trait of ‘emotionality’). Other individuals, by contrast, are characterized by a lack of empathy, callousness, and interpersonal manipulation (i.e., individuals scoring higher on the trait of ‘psychopathy’). These differences in personality tend to be deeply rooted and stable within a given individual and are related to a variety of everyday attitudes and behaviors (i.e., career trajectory, educational attainment, relationship success, etc.). A growing body of political psychology research now examines how individual differences in personality are directly and indirectly related to different political behaviors and outcomes, including the propensity to vote, political participation more generally, political interest, political ambition, political trust, civic duty, democratic citizenship, policy attitudes on a range of issues (defense, foreign policy, etc.), and political ideology or vote choice.

Although studying individual differences in personality is an important new explanatory variable which can contribute to our understanding of political behavior and outcomes, this literature tends to share three key limitations. The first is a reliance on short measures of personality, generally the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI; 2-items per trait), as opposed to more fulsome and robust measures that have ten or more items per trait. The second is the utilization of relatively small samples of convenience, typically university students, rather than large representative samples of the broader population. The third limitation is an overwhelming emphasis on general personality traits (i.e., openness, extraversion, etc.) as conceptualized by the ‘Big Five’ at the expense of other personality models (i.e., Dark Triad, HEXACO), and other individual traits such as authoritarianism and social dominance orientation.

In this Research Topic, we welcome contributions that enhance our understanding of how personality is related (or unrelated) to political behavior and outcomes broadly defined (political participation, political/policy attitudes, voting behavior, prejudice, etc.). While we welcome all submissions that examine the relationship between personality and political outcomes, we would be particularly interested in research that aims to address one or more of the limitations noted above. For example, a paper that measures personality using the TIPI would benefit from the use of a larger more representative sample. Likewise, a paper that relies on a convenience sample of students would benefit from the use of more robust measures of personality. We therefore welcome papers that conceptualize personality in a variety of different ways, including, but not limited to, the Big Five, HEXACO, Dark Triad, Dark Tetrad, Social Dominance Orientation, and Right-Wing Authoritarianism, as well as papers that utilize a diversity of research designs including cross-sectional, cross-cultural, longitudinal, and experimental.


Keywords: Politics, Personality, Political Behavior, Dark Triad, Big Five


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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