How Your Personality Influences Who You Vote For

New study shows how first impressions and personality play a role in voting decisions

New study shows how first impressions and personality play a role in voting decisions

When people visit the ballot box, they generally like to think they are voting for someone who will do the best job for them, after they’ve carefully weighed up all of the arguments and proposals that have been put forward.

But new research conducted at the University of Vienna examined how personality similarity between the voters and politicians affected voting as well as how first impressions played a part in voting decisions. (Koppensteiner & Stephan, 2014)

The researchers used a brief version of the Big Five Personality Inventory which considers dimensions of personality such as:

  • extraversion
  • agreeableness
  • conscientiousness
  • neuroticism or emotional stability
  • openness

After rating their own personality and viewing videos of the politicians they were then asked to rate the politicians personality and asked to rate:

“I would vote for this candidate”

or

“I would not vote for this candidate”

After the results of the study had been analysed it was found that the participants regarded openness agreeableness and emotional stability highly and regarded extraversion and conscientiousness as minor importance when it came to voting decisions.

The study found that participants who perceived that they had a similar level of emotional stability to the politicians tended to vote for those politicians:

detailed analyses showed that participants tended to vote for “someone like me” when the candidate was perceived to have similar emotional stability. There were also similarity effects for agreeableness and openness but these were less clear

The study concluded that:

People refrain from voting for a candidate they rate as low on the personality traits they favor in political candidates

Unlike previous studies considering the similarity effect in voting decisions this study was based on appearance cues and first impressions that may be more relevant to new politicians rather than well known established politicians.

While this study expands on current research and prompts us to question why we make the voting decisions that we do, it also warns that generalisability of results may be limited due to the methods utilised.