Comparative European Politics

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 413–433 | Cite as

Opting for an open society? Personality traits and attitudes toward the openness of Switzerland

  • Kathrin Ackermann
  • Maya Ackermann
  • Markus Freitag
Original Article


The tension between openness and closedness is one of the most important cleavages in Swiss political debates. In the present article, we study the psychological foundations of attitudes regarding this issue. More precisely, we examine the link between personality and attitudes toward the degree of openness of Switzerland as a general stance toward the cultural, economic and political alignment of the country. Personality is understood as a complex and multifaceted concept that forms the basis for consistent patterns of attitudes and behavior. We build on the Five-Factor Theory to explain the link between personality traits, contextual factors and political attitudes. Analyzing survey data from a random sample of Swiss citizens, we find clear evidence that personality traits affect political attitudes. Furthermore, we are able to demonstrate that the relationship between personality and attitudes toward the degree of openness of Switzerland is moderated by perceived ethnic diversity in the neighborhood.


personality political attitudes big five open society context effects Switzerland 



An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Conference of the Swiss Political Science Association (SVPW) 2014 in Bern, Switzerland. The authors are grateful to the participants in the workshop, the three anonymous referees and the editors of Comparative European Politics for their very helpful comments and suggestions. In addition, we would like to thank Jennifer Shore for linguistic assistance and Eros Zampieri for assistance in preparing the manuscript. Errors remain our own.

Supplementary material

41295_2016_62_MOESM1_ESM.doc (239 kb)
Online Appendix


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrin Ackermann
    • 1
  • Maya Ackermann
    • 1
  • Markus Freitag
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Political Science, University of BernBernSwitzerland

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