Correlation not causation: The relationship between personality traits and political ideologies

Brad Verhulst, Lindon J. Eaves, Peter K. Hatemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations

Abstract

The assumption in the personality and politics literature is that a person's personality motivates them to develop certain political attitudes later in life. This assumption is founded on the simple correlation between the two constructs and the observation that personality traits are genetically influenced and develop in infancy, whereas political preferences develop later in life. Work in psychology, behavioral genetics, and recently political science, however, has demonstrated that political preferences also develop in childhood and are equally influenced by genetic factors. These findings cast doubt on the assumed causal relationship between personality and politics. Here we test the causal relationship between personality traits and political attitudes using a direction of causation structural model on a genetically informative sample. The results suggest that personality traits do not cause people to develop political attitudes; rather, the correlation between the two is a function of an innate common underlying genetic factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-51
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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