Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 653–688 | Cite as

Personality and the Strength and Direction of Partisan Identification

  • Alan S. Gerber
  • Gregory A. Huber
  • David Doherty
  • Conor M. Dowling
Original Paper


We examine the associations between personality traits and the strength and direction of partisan identification using a large national sample. We theorize that the relationships between Big Five personality traits and which party a person affiliates with should mirror those between the Big Five and ideology, which we find to be the case. This suggests that the associations between the Big Five and the direction of partisan identification are largely mediated by ideology. Our more novel finding is that personality traits substantially affect whether individuals affiliate with any party as well as the strength of those affiliations, effects that we theorize stem from affective and cognitive benefits of affiliation. In particular, we find that three personality traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness) predict strength of partisan identification (p < 0.05). This result holds even after controlling for ideology and a variety of issue positions. These findings contribute to our understanding of the psychological antecedents of partisan identification.


Personality Party identification Partisan strength Big Five 


  1. Abramowitz, A. I., & Saunders, K. L. (1998). Ideological realignment in the U.S. electorate. Journal of Politics, 60, 634–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abramowitz, A. I., & Saunders, K. L. (2006). Exploring the bases of partisanship in the American electorate: Social identity vs. ideology. Political Research Quarterly, 59, 175–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alford, J. R., Funk, C. L., & Hibbing, J. R. (2005). Are political orientations genetically transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99, 153–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alford, J. R., & Hibbing, J. R. (2007). Personal, interpersonal, and political temperaments. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 614, 196–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alwin, D. F., & Krosnick, J. A. (1991). Aging, cohorts, and the stability of sociopolitical orientations over the life span. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 169–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., Vecchione, M., & Fraley, C. R. (2007). Voters’ personality traits in presidential elections. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1199–1208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borg, M. O., & Shapiro, S. L. (1996). Personality type and student performance in principles of economics. Journal of Economic Education, 27, 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Borghans, L., Duckworth, A. L., Heckman, J. J., & ter Weel, B. (2008). The economics and psychology of personality traits. Journal of Human Resources, 43, 972–1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (1997). The genetics of personality. In K. Blum & E. P. Noble (Eds.), Handbook of psychiatric genetics (pp. 273–296). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brewer, M. B. (1979). In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 17, 475–482.Google Scholar
  11. Brown, R. J., Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1980). Minimal group situations and inter-group discrimination: Comments on the paper by Aschenbrenner and Schaefer. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 399–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burden, B. C. (2008). The social roots of the partisan gender gap. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72, 55–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burden, B. C., & Greene, S. (2000). Party attachments and state election laws. Political Research Quarterly, 53, 63–76.Google Scholar
  14. Burden, B. C., & Klofstad, C. A. (2005). Affect and cognition in party identification. Political Psychology, 26, 869–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1999). Personality profiles and political parties. Political Psychology, 20, 175–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carlo, G., Okun, M. A., Knight, G. P., & de Guzman, M. R. T. (2005). The interplay of traits and motives on volunteering: Agreeableness, extraversion and prosocial value motivation. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1293–1305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carney, D. R., Jost, J. T., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2008). The secret lives of liberals and conservatives: Personality profiles, interaction styles, and the things they leave behind. Political Psychology, 29, 807–840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Carsey, T. M., & Layman, G. C. (2006). Changing sides or changing minds? Party. Identification and policy preferences in the American electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 50, 464–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Caspi, A., Roberts, B. W., & Shiner, R. L. (2005). Personality development: Stability and change. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 453–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO PI-R. Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Denissen, J. J. A., & Penke, L. (2008). Motivational individual reaction norms underlying the Five-Factor Model of personality: First steps towards a theory-based conceptual framework. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1285–1302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Diseth, Å. (2002). Personality and approaches to learning as predictors of academic achievement. European Journal of Personality, 17, 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Elazar, D. J. (1984). American federalism: A view from the States (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  25. Fiorina, M. P. (1981). Retrospective voting in American national elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Fowler, J. H., Baker, L. A., & Dawes, C. T. (2008). Genetic variation in political participation. American Political Science Review, 102, 233–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gerber, A. S., & Huber, G. A. (2009). Partisanship and economic behavior: Do partisan differences in economic forecasts predict real economic behavior? American Political Science Review, 103, 407–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gerber, A. S., & Huber, G. A. (2010). Partisanship, political control, and economic assessments. American Journal of Political Science, 54, 153–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., Dowling, C. M., Raso, C., & Ha, S. E. (2011). Personality traits and participation in political processes. Journal of Politics, 73, 692–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., Dowling, C. M., & Shang, E. H. (2010a). Personality and political attitudes: Relationships across issue domains and political contexts. American Political Science Review, 104, 111–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., & Washington, E. (2010b). Party affiliation, partisanship, and political beliefs: A field experiment. American Political Science Review, 104, 720–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goodwin, R. D., & Friedman, H. S. (2006). Health status and the Five-Factor personality traits in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 643–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goren, P. (2002). Character weakness, partisan bias, and presidential evaluation. American Journal of Political Science, 46, 627–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goren, P. (2005). Party identification and core political values. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 881–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gosling, S. D. (2009). A note on alpha reliability and factor structure in the TIPI. December 20. Accessed January 5, 2010, from http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/faculty/gosling/tipi_alpha_note.htm.
  36. Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B., Jr. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Green, D., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds: Political parties and the social identities of voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Greene, S. (1999). Understanding party identification: A social identity approach. Political Psychology, 20, 393–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Greene, S. (2000). The psychological sources of partisan-leaning independence. American Politics Research, 28, 511–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Greene, S. (2002). The social-psychological measurement of partisanship. Political Behavior, 24, 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hatemi, P. K., Alford, J. R., Hibbing, J. R., Martin, N. G., & Eaves, L. J. (2009). Is there a ‘party’ in your genes? Political Research Quarterly, 62, 584–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jackman, S., & Vavreck, L. (2009). Cooperative campaign analysis project, 2007–2008 panel study: Common content. [Computer File] Release 1: February 1, 2009. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.Google Scholar
  43. Jacoby, W. G. (1988). The impact of party identification on issue attitudes. American Journal of Political Science, 32, 643–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jennings, M. K., & Niemi, R. G. (1974). The political character of adolescence: The influence of families and schools. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  45. John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  46. Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 339–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Keith, B. E., Magleby, D. B., Nelson, C. J., Orr, E., Westlye, M. C., & Wolfinger, R. E. (1992). The myth of the independent voter. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  48. Key, V. O., Jr. (1966). The responsible electorate: Rationality in presidential voting 1936–1960. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Key, V. O., Jr., & Munger, F. (1959). Social determinism and electoral decision: The case of Indiana. In E. Burdick & A. Brodbeck (Eds.), American voting behavior (pp. 291–299). Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
  50. Kline, P. (2000). Handbook of psychological testing. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Levendusky, M. (2009). The partisan sort: How liberals became democrats and conservatives became republicans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  52. Lodge, M., & Taber, C. S. (2000). Three steps toward a theory of motivated political reasoning. In A. Lupia, M. McCubbins, & S. Popkin (Eds.), Elements of political reason: Understanding and expanding the limits of rationality (pp. 183–213). London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. McAdams, D. P., & Pals, J. L. (2006). A new Big Five: Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 61, 204–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McCrae, R. R. (1996). Social consequences of experiential openness. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 323–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1996). Toward a new generation of personality theories: Theoretical contexts for the Five-Factor Model. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.), The Five-Factor Model of personality: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 51–87). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  56. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (2003). Personality in adulthood: A Five-Factor Theory perspective (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mehrabian, A. (1996). Relations among political attitudes, personality, and psychopathology assessed with new measures of libertarianism and conservatism. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 18, 469–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mondak, J. J. (2010). Personality and the foundations of political behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 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
  60. Mondak, J. J., Hibbing, M. V., Canache, D., Seligson, M. A., & 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, 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Neuberg, S. L., & Newsom, J. T. (1993). Personal need for structure: Individual differences in the desire for simple structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 113–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Niemi, R. G., & Jennings, M. K. (1991). Issues and inheritance in the formation of party identification. American Journal of Political Science, 35, 970–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Norrander, B. (1989). Explaining cross-state variation in independent identification. American Journal of Political Science, 33, 516–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Norrander, B. (1997). The independence gap and the gender gap. Public Opinion Quarterly, 61, 464–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. O’Brien, T. P., Bernold, L. E., & Akroyd, D. (1998). Myers-Briggs type indicator and academic achievement in engineering education. International Journal of Engineering Education, 14, 311–315.Google Scholar
  66. Okun, M. A., Pugliese, J., & Rook, K. S. (2007). Unpacking the relation between extraversion and volunteering in later life: The role of social capital. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1467–1477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C., McClearn, G. E., & McGuffin, P. (1990). Behavioral genetics: A primer. New York: W.H. Freeman & Company.Google Scholar
  68. Rahn, W. M. (1993). The role of partisan stereotypes in information processing about political candidates. American Journal of Political Science, 37, 472–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Redlawsk, D. P. (2002). Hot cognition or cool consideration? Testing the effects of motivated reasoning on political decision making. Journal of Politics, 64, 1021–1044.Google Scholar
  70. Rentfrow, P. J., Jost, J. T., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2009). Statewide differences in personality predict voting patterns in 1996–2004 U.S. presidential elections. In J. T. Jost, A. C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification (pp. 314–347). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Riemann, R., Grubich, C., Hempel, S., Mergl, S., & Richter, M. (1993). Personality and attitudes towards current political topics. Personality and Individual Differences, 15, 313–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Roberts, B. W., & Bogg, T. (2004). A longitudinal study of the relationships between conscientiousness and the social-environmental factors and substance-use behaviors that influence health. Journal of Personality, 72, 325–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rudolph, T. J. (2003). Who’s responsible for the economy? The formation and consequences of responsibility attributions. American Journal of Political Science, 47, 698–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schaller, M., Boyd, C., Yohannes, J., & O’Brien, M. (1995). The prejudiced personality revisited: Personal need for structure and formation of erroneous group stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 544–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Schoen, H., & Schumann, S. (2007). Personality traits, partisan attitudes, and voting behavior. Evidence from Germany. Political Psychology, 28, 471–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Settle, J. E., Dawes, C. T., & Fowler, J. H. (2009). The heritability of partisan attachment. Political Research Quarterly, 62, 601–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Settles, I. H. (2004). When multiple identities interfere: The role of identity centrality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 487–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1041–1053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tajfel, H., Flament, C., Billig, M. G., & Bundy, R. F. (1971). Social categorization: An intergroup phenomenon. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Turner, J. C. (1991). Social influence. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  81. Van Gestel, S., & Van Broeckhoven, C. (2003). Genetics of personality: Are we making progress? Molecular Psychiatry, 8, 840–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Van Hiel, A., Kossowska, M., & Mervielde, I. (2000). The relationship between openness to experience and political ideology. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 741–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Van Hiel, A., & Mervielde, I. (2004). Openness to experience and boundaries in the mind: Relationships with cultural and economic conservative beliefs. Journal of Personality, 72, 659–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Van Houweling, R. P., & Sniderman, P. M. (2005). The political logic of a Downsian space. UC Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies. http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/3858b03t. Accessed 1 Aug 2011.
  85. Vavreck, L., & Rivers, D. (2008). The 2006 cooperative congressional election study. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 18, 355–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Vecchione, M., & Caprara, G. V. (2009). Personality determinants of political participation: The contribution of traits and self-efficacy beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 487–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Westen, D., Blagov, P. S., Harenski, K., Kilts, C., & Hamann, S. (2006). Neural bases of motivated reasoning: An fMRI study of emotional constraints on partisan political judgment in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 1947–1958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wolk, C., & Nikolai, L. A. (1997). Personality types of accounting students and faculty: Comparisons and implications. Journal of Accounting Education, 15(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Woods, S. A., & Hampson, S. E. (2005). Measuring the Big Five with single items using a bipolar response scale. European Journal of Personality, 19, 373–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Yang, J., McCrae, R. R., Jr. Costa, P. T., Dai, X., Yao, S., Taisheng, C., et al. (1999). Cross-cultural personality assessment in psychiatric populations: The NEO PI-R in the People’s Republic of China. Psychological Assessment, 11, 359–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Ziegert, A. L. (2000). The role of personality temperament and student learning in principles of economics: Further evidence. The Journal of Economic Education, 31, 307–322.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan S. Gerber
    • 1
  • Gregory A. Huber
    • 1
  • David Doherty
    • 2
  • Conor M. Dowling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Institution for Social and Policy StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations