Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 311–330 | Cite as

From Fistfights to Firefights: Trait Aggression and Support for State Violence

  • Nathan P. KalmoeEmail author
Original Paper


Aggression is a fundamental component of human behavior, yet is mostly absent from scholarship on mass political behavior. This study proposes and tests a theory of state violence attitudes in which citizens develop preferences from aggressive personality traits. In an original nationally-representative survey, trait aggression strongly predicts support for violent state policies, as does its subcomponent trait anger, rivaling the power of partisanship. More provocatively, the well-documented gender gap in state violence attitudes replicated here is not attributable to sex differences in aggressive personality. This work builds on recent advances in political personality research and highlights the important role of aggression in political behavior.


Trait aggression Trait anger State violence Gender gap 



This project was supported by the Gerald R. Ford Fellowship and the Marsh Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan. The author thanks Don Kinder, Ted Brader, Nancy Burns, Nick Valentino, and the editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

Supplementary material

11109_2012_9195_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Michigan, Ann ArborAnn ArborUSA

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