Advertisement

The Personality of the Politically Ambitious

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Political ambition Personality Progressive ambition 

Supplementary material

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

References

  1. Abramson, P. R., Aldrich, J. H., & Rohde, D. W. (1987). Progressive ambition among united states senators: 1972–1988. Journal of Politics, 49(1), 3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almlund, M., Duckworth, A. L., Heckman, J., & Kautz, T. (2011). Personality psychology and economics. In E. A. Hanushek, S. Machin, & L. Woessmann (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education (pp. 1–181). New York: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  3. Bakker, B. N., & Lelkes, Y. (2016). Selling ourselves short? How abbreviated measures of personality change the way think about personality and politics. University of Amsterdam Working Paper.Google Scholar
  4. Barber, J. D. (1965). The lawmakers: Recuritment and adoption to legislative life. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bem, S. L. (1981). A manual for the bem sex role inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  6. Best, H. (2011). Does personality matter in politics? Personality factors as determinants of parliamentary recruitment and policy preferences. Comparative Sociology, 10(6), 928–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Black, G. S. (1972). A theory of political ambition: career choices and the role of structural incentives. American Political Science Review, 66(1), 144–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boudreau, J. W., Boswell, W. R., & Judge, T. A. (2001). Effects of personality on executive career success in the united states and europe. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 58(1), 53–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., & Ferguson, E. (2016). Individual differences in loss aversion: Conscientiousness predicts how life satisfaction responds to losses versus gains in income. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(4), 471–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brim, O. G., Baltes, P. B., Bumpass, L. L., Cleary, P. D., Featherman, D. L., Hazzard, W. R., Kessler, R. C., Lachman, M. E., Markus, H. R., Marmot, M. G., Rossi, A. S., Ryff, C. D., & Shweder, R. A. (2011). National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), 1995–1996. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) [distributor].Google Scholar
  11. Brown, A. R. (2013). Does money buy votes? The case of self-financed gubernatorial candidates, 1998–2008. Political Behavior, 35(1), 21–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Browning, R., & Jacob, H. (1964). Power motivation and the political personality. Public Opinion Quarterly, 28(1), 75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Butler, D. M., & Dynes, A. M. (2016). How politicians discount the opinions of constituents with whom they disagree. American Journal of Political Science, 60(4), 975–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Butler, D. M., & Dynes, A. M. (2017). Past survey results. American Municipal Officials Survey. Retrieved 21 December, 2017, from http://www.municipalsurvey.org/past-survey-results/.
  15. Butler, D. M., & Preece, J. R. (2016). Recruitment and perceptions of gender bias in party leader support. Political Research Quarterly, 69(4), 842–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Butler, D. M., Volden, C., Dynes, A. M., & Shor, B. (2017). Ideology, learning, and policy diffusion: Experimental evidence. American Journal of Political Science, 61(1), 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., Consiglio, C., Picconi, L., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2003). Personalities of politicians and voters: Unique and synergistic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Caprara, G., Francescato, D., Mebane, M., Sorace, R., & Vecchione, M. (2010). Personality foundations of ideological divide: A comparison of women members of parliament and women voters in Italy. Political Psychology, 31(5), 739–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clifford, S., Kirkland, J. H., & Simas, E. N. (forthcoming). How dispositional empathy influences nascent political ambition. Journal of Politics.Google Scholar
  20. Cobb-Clark, D. A., & Schurer, S. (2012). The stability of big-five personality traits. Economics Letters, 115, 11–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Craig, B. M., Hays, R. D., Simon Pickard, A., Cella, D., Revicki, D. A., & Reeve, B. B. (2013). Comparison of US panel vendors for online surveys. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(11), e260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cramer, P. (1999). Future directions for the thematic apperception test. Journal of Personality Assessment, 72(1), 74–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cuhadar, E., Kaarbo, J., Kesgin, B., & Ozkececi-Taner, B. (2016). Personality or role? Comparisons of Turkish leaders across different institutional positions. Political Psychology, 38(1), 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Crowder-Meyer, M. (2013). Gendered recruitment without trying: How local party recruiters affect women’s representation. Politics & Gender, 9(4), 390–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dawes, C., Cesarini, D., Fowler, J. H., Johannesson, M., Magnusson, P. K., & Oskarsson, S. (2014). The relationship between genes, psychological traits, and political participation. American Journal of Political Science, 58(4), 888–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. DeYoung, C. G., Hirsh, J. B., Shane, M. S., Papademetris, X., Rajeevan, N., & Gray, J. R. (2010). Testing predictions from personality neuroscience: Brain structure and the big five. Psychological Science, 21(6), 820–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. DeYoung, C. G., Quilty, L. C., & Peterson, J. B. (2007). Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(5), 880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dietrich, B. J., Lasley, S., Mondak, J. J., Remmel, M. L., & Turner, J. (2012). Personality and legislative politics: The Big Five trait dimensions among US state legislators. Political Psychology, 33(2), 195–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fishel, J. (1971). Ambition and the political vocation: Congressional challengers in american politics. Journal of Politics, 33(1), 25–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. L. (2005). To run or not to run for office: Explaining nascent political ambition. American Journal of Political Science, 49(3), 642–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. L. (2011). Gaining and losing interest in running for public office: The concept of dynamic political ambition. Journal of Politics, 73(2), 443–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. L. (2014). Uncovering the origins of the gender gap in political ambition. American Political Science Review, 108(3), 499–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., & Dowling, C. M. (2011a). The Big Five personality traits in the political arena. Annual Review of Political Science, 14, 265–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., Dowling, C. M., Raso, C., & Shang, E. Ha. (2011b). Personality traits and participation in political processes. Journal of Politics, 73, 692–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4, 26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Greenstein, F. I. (1967). The impact of personality on politics: An attempt to clear away underbrush. American Political Science Review, 61(3), 629–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hartman, R. R. (2012). 78 percent of americans frustrated by negative campaigns, Poll Finds. Yahoo! News.Google Scholar
  38. Jacobson, G. C., & Kernell, S. (1981). Strategy and choice in congressional elections. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Judge, T. A., Erez, A., Bono, J. E., & Thoresen, C. J. (2002). Are measures of self-esteem, neuroticism, locus of control, and generalized self-efficacy indicators of a common core construct? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3), 693–710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Klingler, J. D., Hollibaugh, G. E., Jr., & Ramey, A. J. (2016). What I like about you: Legislator personality and legislator approval. In The meetings of the american political science association, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  41. Lasswell, H. D. (1948). Power and personality. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  42. Lawless, J. L., & Fox, R. L. (2004). Entering the arena? Gender and the decision to run for office. American Journal of Political Science, 48(2), 264–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lawless, J. L., & Fox, R. L. (2010). It still takes a candidate: Why women don’t run for office. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. LePine, J. A., Colquitt, J. A., & Erez, A. (2000). Adaptability to changing task contexts: Effects of general cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. Personnel Psychology, 53(3), 563–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lilienfeld, S. O., Wood, J. M., & Garb, H. N. (2000). The scientific status of projective techniques. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 1(2), 27–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maestas, C. D., Sarah Fulton, L., Maisel, S., & Stone, W. J. (2006). When to risk it? Institutions, ambitions, and the decision to run for the U.S. house. American Political Science Review, 100(2), 195–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McConaughy, J. B. (1950). Certain personality factors of state legislators in South Carolina. American Political Science Review, 44(4), 897–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McCrae, R. R. (2002). NEO-PI-R data from 36 cultures. In R. R. McCrae, J. Allik (Eds.), The five-factor model of personality across cultures (pp. 105–125). Boston, MA: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2008). The five factor model of personality. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  50. McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 175–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Miller, M. G. (2014). Subsidizing democracy: How public funding changes elections, and how it can work in the future. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Mondak, J. J., & Halperin, K. D. (2008). A framework for the study of personality and political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 38, 335–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mondak, J. J., Hibbing, M. V., Canache, D., Seligson, M., & Anderson, M. R. (2010). Personality and civic engagement: An integrative framework for the study of trait effects on political behavior. American Political Science Review, 104(1), 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nicholson, N., Soane, E., Fenton-O’Creevy, M., & Willman, P. (2005). Personality and domain-specific risk taking. Journal of Risk Research, 8(2), 157–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Oliver, E. J., Ha, S. E., & Callen, Z. (2012). Local elections and the politics of small-scale democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 401–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ramey, A. J., Klingler, J. D., & Hollibaugh, G. E., Jr. (2017). More than a feeling: Personality, polarization, and the transformation of the US congress. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rammstedt, B., & John, O. P. (2007). Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five inventory in English and German. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 203–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Reeves, R. (2011). Politicians are different from you and me. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/politicians_are_different_from_you_and_me_20110608?ln.
  60. Remmel, M. (2016). The reliability of self-reported personality responses in political elites: Using second-hand reports to investigate the utility of state legislators’ self-reported personality inventories. Paper presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.Google Scholar
  61. Roberts, B. W., Kuncel, N. R., Shiner, R., Caspi, A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2007). The power of personality: The comparative validity of personality traits, socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability for predicting important life outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(4), 313–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rohde, D. W. (1979). Risk-bearing and progressive ambition: The case of members of the United States house of representatives. American Journal of Political Science, 23(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ryff, C. D., Almeida, D. M., Ayanian, J. S., Carr, D. S., Cleary, P. D., Coe, C., Davidson, R., Krueger, R. F., Lachman, M. E., Marks, N. F., Mroczek, D. K., Seeman, T., Seltzer, M. M., Singer, B. H., Sloan, R. P., Tun, P. A., Weinstein, M., Williams, D. (2012). National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II), 2004–2006. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) [distributor].Google Scholar
  64. Schaefer, P. S., Williams, C. C., Goodie, A. S., & Keith Campbell, W. (2004). Overconfidence and the big five. Journal of Research in Personality, 38(5), 473–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schlesinger, J. A. (1966). Ambition and politics: Political careers in the United States. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  66. Schlesinger, J. A. (1991). Political parties and the winning of office. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  67. Schmitt, D. P., Realo, A., Voracek, M., & Allik, J. (2008). Why can’t a man be more like a woman? Sex differences in big five personality traits across 55 cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(1), 168–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sheffer, L., & Lowen, P. (2017). Electoral confidence, overconfidence, and risky behavior: Evidence from a study with elected politicians. Political Behavior.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-017-9438-0.Google Scholar
  69. Sheffer, L., Lowen, P., Soroka, S., Walgrave, S., & Sheafer, T. (2017). Non-representative representatives: An experimental study of the decision making traits of elected politicians. American Political Science Review.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055417000569.Google Scholar
  70. Specht, J., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2011). Stability and change of personality across the life course: The impact of age and major life events on mean-level and rank-order stability of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stone, W. J., & Maisel, L. S. (2003). The not-so-simple calculus of winning: Potential U.S. house candidates’ nomination and general election prospects. Journal of Politics, 65(4), 951–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Thompson, E. R. (2008). Development and validation of an international english Big-Five mini-markers. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(6), 542–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Todorov, A., Mandisodza, A. N., Goren, A., & Hall, C. C. (2005). Inferences of competence from faces predict election outcomes. Science, 308, 1623–1626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Trapnell, P. D., & Wiggins, J. S. (1990). Extension of the interpersonal adjective scales to include the Big Five dimensions of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(4), 781–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. VandenBos, G. R. (2007). APA disctionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations