The Personality of the Politically Ambitious

  • Adam M. Dynes
  • Hans J. G. Hassell
  • Matthew R. Miles
Original Paper


Until recently, political ambition has largely been considered to be a product of the institutional and political environment. We argue that individual personality plays a significant role in nascent political ambition and progressive ambition. Using a nationally representative survey in the United States and a survey of public officials, we find a strong relationship between personality traits and nascent ambition. We find that individuals with higher levels of extraversion and openness are more likely to consider running for office, while agreeable and conscientious individuals are significantly less interested. We also find that personality traits do not relate to progressive ambition in the same way as they do to nascent ambition. In fact, they are weaker predictors of progressive ambition than they are of nascent ambition. We argue that democratic elections and public service attract certain types of individuals to seek office, which has implications for elite behavior and representation.


Political ambition Personality Progressive ambition 

Supplementary material

11109_2018_9452_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
Online Appendix (DOCX 1255 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam M. Dynes
    • 1
  • Hans J. G. Hassell
    • 2
  • Matthew R. Miles
    • 3
  1. 1.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Brigham Young University-IdahoRexburgUSA

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