Project Personality and Politics

In our current political climate, it’s important to understand the factors that shape political attitudes and voting behavior. Our ongoing research project “Personality and Politics” investigates how individual personality traits influence people’s susceptibility to populism, their political preferences, and ultimately, their voting decisions. Our research methodology incorporates a variety of study designs. We leverage both controlled experiments and longitudinal panel data analysis to gain a comprehensive understanding of the profound impact personality can have on political choices.

Start of the project

We’ve launched project Personality and Politics in 2017 when we founded the Hot Politics Lab.

Goal of the project

A long standing tradition in political psychology has studied the role of personality in politics. The goal of this project is to understand how personality and politics interact. We started off with studying direct associations between personality and political outcomes. In recent years, we have adopt a more dynamic approach. In one line of research, we study how elite communication can activate or resonate with specific personality traits. In another line of research, we theorize and test a more cyclical model whereby personality can be the cause of politics but politics can also be the personality. Ultimately, we are trying to get a better understanding if, to what extent and how personality can help us understand the political preferences and behaviours of citizens and political elites. 

Current status

This is an ongoing research project. Project Personality and Politics has been one of our central research lines.

Researchers on this project

Bert Bakker

Matthijs Rooduijn

Gijs Schumacher

Dan Komáromy

Publications on project Personality and Politics

1Arceneaux, K., Bakker, B.N., Fasching, N., & Lelkes, Y. (2024). A critical evaluation and research agenda for the study of psychological dispositions and political attitudes. Advances in Political Psychology
2Arceneaux, K., Bakker, B.N., & Schumacher, G. (2024). Being of OneMind: Does Alignment in Physiological Responses and Subjective Experiences Shape Political Ideology? Political Psychology
3Fasching, N., Arceneaux, K., & Bakker, B.N. (2023). Inconsistent and weak evidence for a direct association between childhood personality and adult ideology. Journal of Personality
4Bakker, B.N. (2023). Personality Approaches to Political Behavior (p. 21-64). In Leonie Huddy, David Sears, Jack Levy, and Jennifer Jerrit (eds). Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press
5Bakker, B.N., Lelkes, Y., & Malka, A. (2021). Reconsidering the relationship between personality and political preferences. American Political Science Review, 115(4), 1482-1498.
6Bakker, B.N., Schumacher, G., & Rooduijn, M. (2021). The populist appeal. Personality and anti-establishment communication. The Journal of Politics, 83(2), 589-601.
7Bakker, B.N., Schumacher, G., Gothreau, C., & Arceneaux, K. (2020). Conservatives and liberals have similar physiological responses to threats. Nature Human Behaviour 4, 613-621.
8Bakker, B.N., Lelkes, Y. & Malka, A. (2020). Understanding partisan cue receptivity: Tests from predictions from the bounded rationality and expressive utility perspectives. The Journal of Politics 82(3), 1061-1077
9Schumacher, G., & Zettler, I. (2019). House of cards or west wing? Self-reported HEXACO traits of Danish politicians. Personality and Individual Differences, 141, 173-181.
10Bakker, B.N. & Lelkes, Y. (2018). Selling ourselves short. How abbreviated measures of personality change the way we think about personality and politics. The Journal of Politics, 80(4), 1311-1325.
11Bakker, B.N. (2017). Personality traits, income and economic ideology. Political Psychology. 38(6): 1025-1041.
12Bakker, B. N., Klemmensen, R., Nørgaard, A.S., & Schumacher, G. (2016). Stay loyal or exit the party? How openness to experience and extroversion explain vote switching. Political Psychology. 37(3): 419-429.
13Bakker, B.N., Rooduijn, M., & Schumacher, G. (2016). Personality traits and voting for populist parties: Evidence from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. European Journa of Political Research. 55 (2): 302-320
14Bakker, B.N., & De Vreese, C.H. (2016). Personality and European Union attitudes: Relationships across European Union attitude dimensions. European Union Politics 17(1): 25-45. Doi: 10.1177/14651.
15Bakker, B.N., Hopmann, D.N., & Persson, M. (2015). Personality traits and party identification over time. European Journal of Political Research 54(2), 197-215.

Other projects from Hot Politics Lab

Project Radical Activation

what makes some people gravitate towards populist radical right (PRR) parties? Research reveals a link between personality and support for PRR parties, suggesting a deeper psychological influence than previously thought. However, a key question remains: How can personality traits, known for their stability, explain a fluctuating phenomenon like PRR support?

Project Under Pressure

In this project we study how people perceive and regulate threats and adopt political attitudes and behaviours to counter these threats.