There is a popular opinion that people who are involved in politics are amoral or liars. In contrast to that, many people feel that it is a moral duty to vote and involve oneself in activism. Does this mean that people who embody dark personality traits are more or less likely to be politically active? Past research on this has been mixed, but a study published in Personality and Individual Differences seeks to explain some of the nuances of this matter.
The dark personality triad consists of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Previous research has shown a relationship between these traits and power seeking but has shown mixed results about whether or not they are related to political participation. Though these personality traits relate to social dominance, narcissism may make one too self-absorbed and Machiavellianism may make one too cynical to care about politics.
Study author Marta Rogoza and colleagues used two samples for this study, the first of 558 Polish participants between the ages of 18 to 25 and the second of 476 British participants between the ages of 18 and 75. All participants completed a measure on dark triad personality traits and several measures assessing how involved in politics and activism they are, including normative (i.e., voting) and non-normative (i.e., blocking the street) political behavior.
In the Polish sample, results showed that all 3 of the dark triad personality traits were significantly related to political participation, while in the British sample narcissism and psychopathy were related to a smaller extent than in the Polish sample, and Machiavellianism wasn’t related. In the Polish sample, psychopathy was a strong indicator for both normative and non-normative political behavior, while in the British sample psychopathy was related only to non-normative behavior.
In contrast to this, narcissism was positively related to normative behavior, as well as mild non-normative political behavior. Machiavellianism was unrelated. These results are consistent with Rogoza and colleagues’ theory that Machiavellianism was related to cynicism about politics, narcissism is related to using politics for one’s own benefit, and psychopathy is related to wanting to cause political chaos. These results were stable over an 8-month span, suggesting cultural differences.
This study sought to address limitations of past studies on this matter and clarify some of the mixed results seen previously. Despite the success at this, the study has limitations as well. One such limitation is that data was collected during a turbulent political time in Poland, but a relatively stable political time in England. In addition, the Polish sample was much more age confined, which could affect the data.
The study, “Why dark personalities participate in politics?” was authored by Marta Rogoza, Marta Marchlewska, and Dagmara Szczepańska.