Political attitudes develop independently of personality traits

Peter K. Hatemi, Brad Verhulst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

The primary assumption within the recent personality and political orientations literature is that personality traits cause people to develop political attitudes. In contrast, research relying on traditional psychological and developmental theories suggests the relationship between most personality dimensions and political orientations are either not significant or weak. Research from behavioral genetics suggests the covariance between personality and political preferences is not causal, but due to a common, latent genetic factor that mutually influences both. The contradictory assumptions and findings from these research streams have yet to be resolved. This is in part due to the reliance on cross-sectional data and the lack of longitudinal genetically informative data. Here, using two independent longitudinal genetically informative samples, we examine the joint development of personality traits and attitude dimensions to explore the underlying causal mechanisms that drive the relationship between these features and provide a first step in resolving the causal question. We find change in personality over a ten-year period does not predict change in political attitudes, which does not support a causal relationship between personality traits and political attitudes as is frequently assumed. Rather, political attitudes are often more stable than the key personality traits assumed to be predicting them. Finally, the results from our genetic models find that no additional variance is accounted for by the causal pathway from personality traits to political attitudes. Our findings remain consistent with the original construction of the five-factor model of personality and developmental theories on attitude formation, but challenge recent work in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0118106
JournalPloS one
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 3 2015

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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