Particular personality traits are linked to economic ideologies, according to new research, but this relationship appears to be influenced by a person’s income.
The findings were published in the journal Political Psychology.
“In my PhD, I studied the associations between people’s personality and their preferences about politics,” said study author Bert N. Bakker of the University of Amsterdam.
“Many studies have shown direct associations between a person’s personality and their position towards politics on a scale from left (liberal) to right (conservative) as well as their positions towards social issues such as immigration and abortion.”
“Yet, the association between personality and people’s preferences towards economic issues such as income redistribution were less clear,” Bakker said. “In this project, I set out to study whether the associations between personality and a person’s economic preferences might be stronger or weaker conditional upon another factor, namely their income.”
The research was based on the Big Five model of personality, which breaks personality down into five traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
For his study, Bakker examined data from studies conducted in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He found that people with more conservative economic attitudes tended to be more conscientious, but less agreeable and less neurotic than their more liberal counterparts.
In other words, people who disagreed with statements such as “high income earners do not pay enough taxes” were more likely to score higher on a measure of Conscientiousness, and lower on measures of Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
“Yet, the association between personality traits and economic preferences is attenuated by income,” Bakker told PsyPost. “Specifically, I find that the association between the personality trait Agreeableness and economic preferences is weaker among poor people compared to wealthier people in all three countries.”
“Low income also attenuates the association between economic ideology and the traits Openness (in Denmark), Extraversion (in the United Kingdom) and Neuroticism (in the United States). As such, this study shows that personality traits are associated with economic preferences and that some personality traits are weaker associated with economic preferences among citizens with a lower income.”
The study found some differences between Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States. But it is unclear if this is because of cultural and political differences, or differences in the methodologies of the studies examined.
“I conducted this study in three countries,” Bakker said. “I relied upon data from Denmark and supplemented this with data from the United Kingdom and the United States. The data from the U.K. and U.S. was collected by other researchers and as such the measures employed are not exactly the same as those used in Denmark.”
“Perhaps some of the differences that I find across the studies are due to the differences in the measurement of personality and/or the economic preferences. Future research using fully comparable surveys in multiple countries would be beneficial.”
The study was titled: “Personality Traits, Income, and Economic Ideology“.