U.S. States’ personalities linked to their politics
If one state’s citizens are more agreeable and another’s more conscientious, could that influence how each state is governed? A recently published study suggests it could. Political scientists matched personality data from more than 600,000 Americans with state-level measures of political culture, and found striking results.
One state’s citizens are collectively more agreeable and another’s are more conscientious. Could that influence how each state is governed?A recently published study suggests it could.Jeffery Mondak and Damarys Canache, political science professors at the University of Illinois, analyzed personality data from more than 600,000 Americans, identified by state, who had responded to an online survey for another research study. They then matched that data with state-level measures of political culture, as identified by other, unrelated research.The results were striking. “Variation in personality across the American states corresponds quite strongly with states’ core political characteristics,” they write in a paper published in the March issue of the journal Political Research Quarterly.The study does not prove a cause and effect, only a correlation between collective personality traits and political culture within states, says Mondak, the James M. Benson Chair in Public Issues and Civic Leadership, who has been studying the intersection between psychology and politics for nearly two decades. (His 2010 book, “Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior,” was one of the first on the subject.)Establishing the connection is significant, however, Mondak said. “It’s important that we figure out what makes individuals tick and then how that connects to what makes societies tick,” he said. “Now we know that these individual-level psychological properties are related — and strongly related — to key aspects of political culture that have been studied for decades.”Mondak’s study of personality and politics is based on the “five factor” or “Big Five” model that has revolutionized the study of personality since the late 1980s, he said. The model provides a structure for grouping hundreds of personality traits under five broad dimensions: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness (friendly vs. more distant) and neuroticism (or its reverse, emotional stability).In fact, many personality tests that have become popular online — such as those offering to tell you which U.S. …
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