Do Personality Traits Influence Political Beliefs?

Apparently so, according to researchers from the University of Toronto. They found that people who are motivated by compassion, empathy, and equality tend to be liberal, while those who are concerned with order, tradition, and politeness tend to be conservative.
As the researchers explain:

Individuals who have high needs for order but low needs for equality are likely to score at the high ends of conservative ideology. Conversely, individuals with low needs for order but high needs for equality are likely to score at the high ends of liberal ideology. If, by contrast, both of these needs are relatively balanced, a more moderate political outlook is likely to be observed. Although the term “bleeding-heart liberal” is often used pejoratively, the current findings suggest that liberals do indeed tend to have higher levels of compassion. These higher levels of compassion likely contribute to the liberal’s preference for fairness and equality. In contrast, the term “compassionate conservative” may be something of an oxymoron. It is true that individuals with a more balanced personality profile may endorse both conservative and liberal values, but conservatism as a political orientation appears to be negatively associated with compassion. This does not mean there are no compassionate conservatives, but it suggests that the extent to which conservatives are compassionate may reflect the extent to which they possess the underlying motivation driving the liberal value of egalitarianism.

It’s an argument in line with the one Jon Hanson, director of The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School, made back in March, when he told Big Think about other research suggesting we’re predisposed to different ideologies based on certain personality traits and motivations— like how we feel about inequality, uncertainty, and new experiences; conservatives, for example, tend to like order, clarity, and closure, while liberals are more comfortable with chaos.

Category: Findings


2 Responses

  1. […] Our own research has recently added to a growing literature linking political orientations to basic psychological dispositions as reflected in an individual’s personality traits. While this relationship is not deterministic, people are much more likely to adopt political stances in line with their personal dispositions. In particular, political orientation appears to reflect the relative balance of an individual’s dispositional motives for compassion/equality and order/tradition, with the former associated more with a liberal orientation and the latter associated with a conservative orientation. […]

  2. Chisanga says:

    Where do libertarians fit in on this?

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