Personality and the Policy Positions of Politicians

Eran Amsalem*, Lior Sheffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Politicians’ support of or opposition to concrete policies is uniquely consequential for policymaking, public opinion, and a host of other societal outcomes. Explaining their policy positions is therefore a major research agenda in political science. Here, we evaluate the role of politicians’ personality traits, measured with the Big Five typology, in shaping how liberal or conservative their economic and social policy positions are. While existing research establishes this link among nonelites, it is far from obvious that the same holds for politicians, who have systematically different personality profiles, and whose positions are constrained by party lines. Using an in-person study of 893 legislators in five countries who completed personality questionnaires and provided detailed issue positions, we find that Openness to Experience is strongly and positively predictive of politicians’ liberal positions on both economic and social policies, but a null relationship for Conscientiousness. We also find that Extraversion predicts more conservative economic (but not social) policy positions. We discuss implications for the role of elites’ individual characteristics in policymaking.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)119-138
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date5 Apr 2022
StateE-pub ahead of print - 5 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Stefaan Walgrave, Stefanie Bailer, Christian Breunig, Luzia Helfer, Peter Loewen, Jean-Benoit Pilet, Tamir Sheafer, Frédéric Varone, and Rens Vliegenthart for their generosity in sharing the data we used for this paper. We also wish to thank Noam Gidron, Yotam Margalit, Jeffery Mondak, Adam Ramey, Julie Sevenans, Alon Yakter, and Alon Zoizner for their early and exceptionally insightful advice that helped us structure this paper. We further thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their thorough and helpful feedback that greatly improved this manuscript. Finally, we are grateful for the helpful comments and suggestions by participants of the 2020 New York Area Political Psychology Meeting, 2020 Stanford Political Psychology Research Group workshop seminar, 2020 Gothenburg Research Group on Elections, Public Opinion and Political Behavior, 2021 European Political Science Association Annual Meeting, and the 2021 International Society of Political Psychology Annual Meeting. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Eran Amsalem, Department of Communication and Journalism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, 9190501 Jerusalem, Israel. E-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Political Psychology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society of Political Psychology.


  • Big Five
  • ideology
  • personality
  • policy
  • political elites


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