Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-wzw2p Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-26T12:58:10.044Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Personality Traits and the Early Origins of Political Sophistication: Openness to Experience or Intellectualism?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2018

Alexandre Blanchet*
McGill University, Department of Political Science, Room 24-5, 3610 rue McTavish, Montréal, Québec H3A 1Y2
*Corresponding author. Email:


Recent research using the Big Five model of personality traits has highlighted the importance of personality traits to explaining diverse political behaviours and attitudes. The trait labelled openness to experience has also been found to positively affect political knowledge. This investigation seeks to distinguish two different components of openness: the aesthetic and the intellectual facets. An analysis of the 2015 Canadian Election Study (CES), the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES) and the 2013 ANES Recontact Study was conducted to explore this question. Openness had no significant impact on political knowledge when a measure that more precisely targets intellectualism, as represented by need for cognition, was included. However, open individuals did exhibit higher levels of interest in politics. Finally, openness to experience and need for cognition fostered political knowledge with frequency of political discussion and exposure to disagreement in the CES respondents (Canadians) but not in the ANES respondents (Americans).


Des travaux récents utilisant le modèle de personnalité du «Big Five» ont démontré l'importance des traits de personnalité pour expliquer une variété de comportements et attitudes politiques. Il a aussi été démontré que le trait nommé «ouverture aux expériences» affecte positivement l'information politique. Cet article se penche sur cette relation en distinguant deux éléments constitutifs de l'ouverture aux expériences : les facettes esthétique et intellectuelle. L'article analyse les données des études électorales canadiennes de 2015, celles de l'American National Election Study de 2012, ainsi que les données de l'ANES Recontact Study de 2013. Il est démontré que l'ouverture aux expériences n'a pas d'impact significatif sur le niveau d'information politique lorsqu'une mesure visant plus directement l'intellectualisme (le besoin de cognition) est prise en compte. Cependant, les individus plus ouverts rapportent significativement plus d'intérêt pour la politique. Finalement, il est démontré que l'ouverture aux expériences et le besoin de cognition affectent positivement les niveaux d'information politique en interagissant avec l'exposition aux discussions et aux désaccords politiques au Canada, mais pas aux États-Unis.

Research Article/Étude originale
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ackerman, Phillip L. and Heggestad, Eric D.. 1997. “Intelligence, Personality, and Interests: Evidence for Overlapping Traits.” Psychological Bulletin 121 (2): 219–45.Google Scholar
Adorno, Theodor W., Frenkel-Brunswik, Else, Levinson, Daniel J. and Sanford, R. Nevitt. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harpers.Google Scholar
Austin, Elizabeth J., Deary, Ian J., Whiteman, Martha C., Fowkes, F. G. R., Pedersen, Nancy L., Rabbitt, Patrick, Bent, Nuala and McInnes, Lynn. 2002. “Relationships Between Ability and Personality: Does Intelligence Contribute Positively to Personal and Social Adjustment?Personality and Individual Differences 32(8): 1391–411.Google Scholar
Borgatta, Edgar F. 1964. “The Structure of Personality Characteristics.” Behavioral Science 9 (1): 817.Google Scholar
Brand, Chris R. 1994. “Open to Experience—closed to Intelligence: Why the ‘Big Five'are Really the ‘Comprehensive Six’.” European Journal of Personality 8(4): 299310.Google Scholar
Browning, Rufus P and Jacob, Herbert. 1964. “Power Motivation and the Political Personality.” Public Opinion Quarterly 28(1): 7590.Google Scholar
Cacioppo, John T. and Petty, Richard E.. 1982. “The Need for Cognition.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42(1): 116–31.Google Scholar
Cattell, Raymond B. 1957. Personality and Motivation Structure and Measurement. Oxford: World Book Co.Google Scholar
Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas, Moutafi, Joanna and Furnham, Adrian. 2005. “The Relationship Between Personality Traits, Subjectively-Assessed and Fluid Intelligence.” Personality and Individual Differences 38(7): 1517–28.Google Scholar
Condon, Meghan. 2015. “Voice Lessons: Rethinking the Relationship Between Education and Political Participation.” Political Behavior 37(4): 819–43.Google Scholar
Connelly, Brian S., Ones, Deniz S. and Chernyshenko, Oleksandr S.. 2014. “Introducing the Special Section on Openness to Experience: Review of Openness Taxonomies, Measurement, and Nomological Net.” Journal of Personality Assessment 96(1): 116.Google Scholar
Delli Carpini, Michael X. Delli, and Keeter, Scott. 1993. “Measuring Political Knowledge: Putting First Things First.” American Journal of Political Science 37(4): 1179–206.Google Scholar
Delli Carpini, Michael X. and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Denny, Kevin and Doyle, Orla. 2008. “Political Interest, Cognitive Ability and Personality: Determinants of Voter Turnout in Britain.” British Journal of Political Science 38(2): 291310.Google Scholar
DeYoung, Colin G., Peterson, Jordan B. and Higgins, Daniel M.. 2005. “Sources of Openness/Intellect: Cognitive and Neuropsychological Correlates of the Fifth Factor of Personality.” Journal of Personality 73(4): 825–58.Google Scholar
DeYoung, Colin G., Quilty, Lena C. and Peterson, Jordan B.. 2007. “Between Facets and Domains: 10 Aspects of the Big Five.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93(5): 880–96.Google Scholar
DeYoung, Colin G., Shamosh, Noah A., Green, Adam E., Braver, Todd S., and Gray, Jeremy R.. 2009. “Intellect as Distinct from Openness: Differences Revealed by FMRI of Working Memory.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97(5): 883–92.Google Scholar
DeYoung, Colin G., Quilty, Lena C., Peterson, Jordan B. and Gray, Jeremy R.. 2014. “Openness to Experience, Intellect, and Cognitive Ability.” Journal of Personality Assessment 96(1): 4652.Google Scholar
Elms, Alan C. 1976. Personality in Politics. Oxford: Anchor.Google Scholar
Eysenck, Hans J. 1954. The Psychology of Politics. Vol. 2. Piscataway: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Fiske, Donald W. 1949. “Consistency of the Factorial Structures of Personality Ratings from Different Sources.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 44(3): 329.Google Scholar
Fleischhauer, Monika, Enge, Sören, Brocke, Burkhard, Ullrich, Johannes, Strobel, Alexander and Strobel, Anja. 2009. “Same or Different? Clarifying the Relationship of Need for Cognition to Personality and Intelligence.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36(1): 8296.Google Scholar
Fournier, Patrick. 2002. “The Uninformed Canadian Voter.” In Citizen Politics: Research and Theory in Canadian Political Behaviour, ed. Everitt, Joanna and O'Neill, Brenda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Furnham, Adrian. 2008. “Relationship Among Four Big Five Measures of Different Length.” Psychological Reports 102(1): 312–6.Google Scholar
Furnham, Adrian and Thorne, Jeremy D.. 2013. “Need for Cognition.” Journal of Individual Differences 34(4): 230–40.Google Scholar
Furnham, Adrian, Moutafi, Joanna and Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. 2005. “Personality and Intelligence: Gender, the Big Five, Self-Estimated and Psychometric Intelligence.” International Journal of Selection and Assessment 13(1): 1124.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David and Dowling, Conor M.. 2011a. “The Big Five Personality Traits in the Political Arena.” Annual Review of Political Science 14: 265–87.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David and Dowling, Conor M.. 2011b. “Personality Traits and the Consumption of Political Information.” American Politics Research 39(1): 3284.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David and Dowling, Conor M.. 2012. “Disagreement and the Avoidance of Political Discussion: Aggregate Relationships and Differences Across Personality Traits.” American Journal of Political Science 56 (4): 849–74.Google Scholar
Goldberg, Lewis R. 1990. “An Alternative ‘Description of Personality’: The Big-Five Factor Structure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59(6): 1216–29.Google Scholar
Goldberg, Lewis R. 1992. “The Development of Markers for the Big-Five Factor Structure.” Psychological Assessment 4(1): 2642.Google Scholar
Gosling, Samuel D., Rentfrow, Peter J., and Swann, William B.. 2003. “A Very Brief Measure of the Big-Five Personality Domains.” Journal of Research in Personality 37(6): 504–28.Google Scholar
Greco, L. and Walter, S.. 2013. “The Need for Cognition: A Meta-Analysis Clarifying the Link to Intelligence and Personality.” Academy of Management Proceedings 2013(1): 13718–8.Google Scholar
Greenstein, Fred I. 1969. Personality and Politics: Problems of Evidence, Inference, and Conceptualizati. Markham: Markham Publishing.Google Scholar
Hibbing, Matthew V., Ritchie, Melinda and Anderson, Mary R. 2011. “Personality and Political Discussion.” Political Behavior 33(4): 601–24.Google Scholar
Hill, Benjamin D., Foster, Joshua D., Elliott, Emily M., Shelton, Jill Talley, McCain, Jessica and Gouvier, William Drew. 2013. “Need for Cognition Is Related to Higher General Intelligence, Fluid Intelligence, and Crystallized Intelligence, but Not Working Memory.” Journal of Research in Personality 47(1): 22–5.Google Scholar
Hillygus, D. Sunshine. 2005. “The Missing Link: Exploring the Relationship Between Higher Education and Political Engagement.” Political Behavior 27(1): 2547.Google Scholar
Huckfeldt, Robert, Mendez, Jeanette Morehouse and Osborn, Tracy. 2004. “Disagreement, Ambivalence, and Engagement: The Political Consequences of Heterogeneous Networks.” Political Psychology 25(1): 6595.Google Scholar
Jang, Kerry L., Livesley, W. John, Angleitner, Alois, Riemann, Rainer and Vernon, Philip A.. 2002. “Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Covariance of Facets Defining the Domains of the Five-Factor Model of Personality.” Personality and Individual Differences 33(1): 83101.Google Scholar
Janis, Irving L. and Field, Peter B.. 1959. “Sex Differences and Personality Factors Related to Persuasibility,” in Personality and Persuasibility, Hovland, Carl I. and Janis, Irving L., eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 5568.Google Scholar
Janis, Irving L. and Field, Peter B.. 1959. “Sex Differences and Personality Factors Related to Persuasibility.” In Personality and Persuasibility, eds. Hovland, Carl I. and Janis, Irving L.. New Haven: Yale University Press, 5568.Google Scholar
Jensen-Campbell, Lauri A. and Graziano, William G. 2000. “Beyond the School Yard: Relationships as Moderators of Daily Interpersonal Conflict.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26(8): 923–35.Google Scholar
Lambert, Ronald D., Curtis, James E., Kay, Barry J. and Brown, Steven D.. 1988. “The Social Sources of Political Knowledge.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 21(2): 359–74.Google Scholar
Lane, Robert E. 1955. “Political Personality and Electoral Choice.” American Political Science Review 49(1): 173–90.Google Scholar
Lasswell, Harold D. 1931. “Bribery.” In Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. Seligman, Edwin R.. New York: Macmillan, 690692.Google Scholar
Levinson, Daniel J. 1958. “The Relevance of Personality for Political Participation.” Public Opinion Quarterly 22(1): 310.Google Scholar
Luskin, Robert C. 1987. “Measuring Political Sophistication.” American Journal of Political Science 31(4): 856–99.Google Scholar
McClosky, Herbert. 1958. “Conservatism and Personality.” American Political Science Review 52(1): 2745.Google Scholar
McCrae, Robert R. 1982. “Consensual Validation of Personality Traits: Evidence from Self-Reports and Ratings.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43(2): 293303.Google Scholar
McCrae, Robert R. 1994. “Openness to Experience: Expanding the Boundaries of Factor V.” European Journal of Personality 8(4): 251–72.Google Scholar
McCrae, Robert R. and Costa, Paul T.. 1983. “Joint Factors in Self-Reports and Ratings: Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness to Experience.” Personality and Individual Differences 4(3): 245–55.Google Scholar
Mondak, Jeffery J. 2010. Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Mondak, Jeffery J. and Halperin, Karen D.. 2008. “A Framework for the Study of Personality and Political Behaviour.” British Journal of Political Science 38(2): 335–62.Google Scholar
Mondak, Jeffery J., Hibbing, Matthew V., Canache, Damarys, Seligson, Mitchell A. and Anderson, Mary R.. 2010. “Personality and Civic Engagement: An Integrative Framework for the Study of Trait Effects on Political Behavior.” American Political Science Review 104(1): 85110.Google Scholar
Moutafi, Joanna, Furnham, Adrian and Crump, John. 2003. “Demographic and Personality Predictors of Intelligence: A Study Using the Neo Personality Inventory and the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator.” European Journal of Personality 17(1): 7994.Google Scholar
Moutafi, Joanna, Furnham, Adrian and Paltiel, Laurence. 2005. “Can Personality Factors Predict Intelligence?Personality and Individual Differences 38(5): 1021–33.Google Scholar
Mussel, Patrick. 2010. “Epistemic Curiosity and Related Constructs: Lacking Evidence of Discriminant Validity.” Personality and Individual Differences 40: 506–10.Google Scholar
Mussen, Paul H. and Wyszynski, Anne B.. 1952. “Personality and Political Participation.” Human Relations 5(1): 6582.Google Scholar
Mutz, Diana C. 2002a. “Cross-Cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice.” American Political Science Review 96(1): 111–26.Google Scholar
Mutz, Diana C. 2002b. “The Consequences of Cross-Cutting Networks for Political Participation.” American Journal of Political Science 46(4): 838855.Google Scholar
Neuman, W. Russell, Just, Marion R. and Crigler, Ann N.. 1992. Common Knowledge: News and the Construction of Political Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Norman, Warren T. 1963. “Toward an Adequate Taxonomy of Personality Attributes: Replicated Factor Structure in Peer Nomination Personality Ratings.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 66(6): 574–83.Google Scholar
Rokeach, Milton. 1960. The Open and Closed Mind. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Sadowski, Cyril J. and Cogburn, Helen E.. 1997. “Need for Cognition in the Big-Five Factor Structure.” Journal of Psychology 131(3): 307–12.Google Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M. 1975. Personality and Democratic Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Testa, Paul F, Hibbing, Matthew V and Ritchie, Melinda. 2014. “Orientations Toward Conflict and the Conditional Effects of Political Disagreement.” Journal of Politics 76(3): 770–85.Google Scholar
Tomkins, Silvan. 1963. “Left and Right: A Basic Dimension of Ideology and Personality.” In The Study of Lives: Essays on Personality in Honor of Henry A. Murray, ed. White, R. W. and Bruner, K. F. (Collaborator). New York: Atherton Press, 388411.Google Scholar
Tupes, Ernest C. and Christal, Raymond C.. 1958. “Stability of personality trait rating factors obtained under diverse conditions.” USAF Wright Air Development Center Technical Note 16: 5861.Google Scholar
Verba, Sidney, Schlozman, Kay Lehman and Brady, Henry E.. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Woo, Sang Eun, Harms, Peter D. and Kuncel, Nathan R.. 2007. “Integrating Personality and Intelligence: Typical Intellectual Engagement and Need for Cognition.” Personality and Individual Differences 43(6): 1635–9.Google Scholar
Zaller, John. 1990. “Political Awareness, Elite Opinion Leadership and the Mass Survey Response.” Social Cognition 8(1): 125–53.Google Scholar
Zeidner, Moshe and Matthews, Gerald. 2000. Intelligence and Personality. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Blanchet supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Blanchet supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 192.3 KB