Study: People open to experience are more likely to change their voting position

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People who are open to experience are more likely to change their voting position, according to a recent study published online in Political Psychology. The study also found some evidence that extroverts are more likely to stay loyal to their party.

It has been highlighted that voters who are discontent with the party they voted for have two options: either exit the party and vote for another or stay loyal. Within this, whether voters decide to stay loyal or to exit varies among individuals and is related to an individuals’ personality.

A key conceptualization of personality is formed in the Five Factor Model (FFM), which consists of:  openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Research has shown that these factors explain a significant proportion of political behavior.

The study, led by Bert Bakker of the University of Amsterdam, proposed that personality traits explain vote switching in two ways. Firstly, individuals high in open to experience are more likely to switch votes because they are more likely to consider new ideas, imagine alternatives, and take risks. Secondly, extroverted individuals are more likely to stay loyal to their party because they are more likely to identify with a party, commit to organizations, and are dominant.

Data was analyzed from the United Kingdom (3,500 respondents) and Denmark (1,972 respondents). British respondents were asked on four occasions between 2005 and 2008, “Which party do you feel closest to?” and “Which party would you vote for tomorrow?” Danish respondents were asked in 2010 and again in 2011, “Which party did you vote for in the last election?” and “Which party would you vote for if an election were held tomorrow?” The analyses also controlled for political interest, external efficacy, ideology, and socioeconomic conditions.

The results revealed that in Denmark, people who are open to experience are more likely to change their voting position, and extroverts are more likely to stay loyal to their party. In the United Kingdom, people who are open to experience are more likely to change their voting position but there was no effect observed with people high in extraversion.

The researchers concluded, “Our findings demonstrate that electoral volatility is, at least partly, rooted in personality.” They add that the findings “expand research on electoral volatility and show that the tendency to change party preference is, at least partly, rooted in deep-seated psychological dispositions.”



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