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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DSI)

Personality Politics: understanding voter preferences through personality traits

With the elections in the center of attention, it's an opportune time to explore the connection between personality and political preferences. You may have noticed that some of us prefer stability and tradition, while others embrace change and diversity. These differences point to conservative and progressive orientations, which are clearly reflected in the positions of various political parties.

When we talk about the origins of our political beliefs, we often attribute them to our upbringing, social circles, or personal experiences. But there's more to it than that. Research found that, progressives and conservatives don't merely possess differing political preferences; they have distinct temperaments that subtly shape their worldview. This suggests that our political inclinations are not solely shaped by external factors, but are also influenced by our inherent personality traits.

Food preferences and politics

Let's illustrate this with a concrete example. Research found that health-conscious individuals who opt for vegetarian or culturally diverse diets lean towards leftist parties,  prioritising environmental awareness, diversity and social responsibility—core principles of progressive policies. Conversely, those who prefer traditional meat-and-potato meals are often inclined to support conservative parties. These dietary choices may reflect a deep-seated appreciation for tradition, stability, and conventional norms. It's essential to note that these correlations represent statistical trends and do not apply universally to every individual. There are certainly exceptions, with many meat-lovers endorsing progressive ideologies and vice versa.

So, are our food preferences driving our political views, or do political parties dictate what food their followers should eat? Neither—it seems that both are influenced by the same underlying factor: our temperament.

The Big Five personality traits

To get a clearer picture of the personality traits associated with different voter profiles, researchers often rely on the Big Five model. This model systematically categorises personality traits into five distinct dimensions:

  1. Extraversion: Measures the degree of outgoingness and energy.
  2. Agreeableness: Evaluates the level of kindness and cooperation.
  3. Emotional Stability: Indicates the level of emotional resilience and stability.
  4. Openness to Experience: Reflects the extent of intellectual curiosity and creativity.
  5. Conscientiousness: Assesses the degree of diligence and dependability.
     

Personality and voting preferences

Significant correlations have been found, particularly with the dimensions of 'Openness to Experience' and 'Conscientiousness'. Individuals high in Openness often align with left-wing ideologies, driven by a desire to explore new ideas and challenge the status quo. Conversely, those high in Conscientiousness more often lean towards conservatism, prioritising tradition and personal responsibility.

But why do these differences emerge? It's a complex interplay between genetics and environment. While personality traits do have a genetic component, it's crucial to understand that our genes don't dictate our political views; they simply nudge us in certain directions.

What does this mean to you? Maybe the next time you contemplate your political stance or encounter people with opposing viewpoints, consider the role one’s personality plays in all of this. Recognising how individual traits shape beliefs can foster more empathy towards one another. Moreover: an open mind combined with listening to eachother could pave the way for a more cohesive future beyond divisive rhetoric.

Hudson’s BAQ

In the professional world, personality profoundly impacts success and satisfaction. Hudson's Business Attitudes Questionnaire (BAQ), grounded in the Big Five model, offers invaluable insights for both employers and employees.

The BAQ is particularly effective for predicting work performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. By utilising the BAQ, organisations can ensure a better fit between the workplace and employees’ individual strengths, thereby enhancing both satisfaction and performance.

Conclusion

Reflecting on the elections, it's evident that personality traits significantly influence political preferences. Understanding these traits can also benefit HR professionals: the knowledge can foster the development of a more inclusive workplace. By recognising the diverse personalities within their teams, HR professionals can not only harness the unique strengths of each individual, ultimately this could also be enhancing workplace cohesion and empathy.

About the author

Amélie Vrijdags | Expert Psychologist Research & Development

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