What I Like About You: Legislator Personality and Legislator Approval

  • Jonathan D. Klingler
  • Gary E. HollibaughJr.
  • Adam J. RameyEmail author
Original Paper


Recent work in the study of legislative politics has uncovered associations between the Big Five personality traits and myriad phenomena in the United States Congress. This literature raises new questions about political representation in terms of the Big Five, specifically, whether voters are more likely to support legislators with similar personality traits to their own, who would presumably have similar process preferences, or legislators with valence personality traits, regardless of congruence, which are associated with better leadership. We first revisit the measurement validity of voter assessments of legislator personality in the 2014 and 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies to demonstrate that such survey items are meaningful. Subsequently, we use these data to construct measures of personality congruence and valence and apply them to predict voters’ job approval of legislators. Our results support the claim that voters evaluate legislators’ job performance on the basis of perceived valence traits rather than legislators’ congruence to voters’ own personality dispositions.


Personality Big Five Congress Voter decision-making Non-nested model testing Candidate evaluations 



Author order was determined by a singular value decomposition of the authors’ crowdsourced personality traits. All contributed equally to the paper. Support through ANR—Labex IAST and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks to Jeff Gulati, Travis Johnston, Cherie Maestas, John McNulty, attendees at the 2016 Annual Meetings of the Southern and American Political Science Associations and the International Society for Political Psychology, and attendees at the 2016 and 2017 Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association. All remaining errors are our own.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (pdf 594 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  3. 3.Division of Social SciencesNew York University Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates

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