Skip to main content Accessibility help

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

  • Alexandre Blanchet (a1)


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.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Ackerman, Phillip L. and Heggestad, Eric D.. 1997. “Intelligence, Personality, and Interests: Evidence for Overlapping Traits.” Psychological Bulletin 121 (2): 219–45.
Adorno, Theodor W., Frenkel-Brunswik, Else, Levinson, Daniel J. and Sanford, R. Nevitt. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harpers.
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.
Borgatta, Edgar F. 1964. “The Structure of Personality Characteristics.” Behavioral Science 9 (1): 817.
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.
Browning, Rufus P and Jacob, Herbert. 1964. “Power Motivation and the Political Personality.” Public Opinion Quarterly 28(1): 7590.
Cacioppo, John T. and Petty, Richard E.. 1982. “The Need for Cognition.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42(1): 116–31.
Cattell, Raymond B. 1957. Personality and Motivation Structure and Measurement. Oxford: World Book Co.
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.
Condon, Meghan. 2015. “Voice Lessons: Rethinking the Relationship Between Education and Political Participation.” Political Behavior 37(4): 819–43.
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.
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.
Delli Carpini, Michael X. and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elms, Alan C. 1976. Personality in Politics. Oxford: Anchor.
Eysenck, Hans J. 1954. The Psychology of Politics. Vol. 2. Piscataway: Transaction Publishers.
Fiske, Donald W. 1949. “Consistency of the Factorial Structures of Personality Ratings from Different Sources.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 44(3): 329.
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.
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.
Furnham, Adrian. 2008. “Relationship Among Four Big Five Measures of Different Length.” Psychological Reports 102(1): 312–6.
Furnham, Adrian and Thorne, Jeremy D.. 2013. “Need for Cognition.” Journal of Individual Differences 34(4): 230–40.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Goldberg, Lewis R. 1990. “An Alternative ‘Description of Personality’: The Big-Five Factor Structure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59(6): 1216–29.
Goldberg, Lewis R. 1992. “The Development of Markers for the Big-Five Factor Structure.” Psychological Assessment 4(1): 2642.
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.
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.
Greenstein, Fred I. 1969. Personality and Politics: Problems of Evidence, Inference, and Conceptualizati. Markham: Markham Publishing.
Hibbing, Matthew V., Ritchie, Melinda and Anderson, Mary R. 2011. “Personality and Political Discussion.” Political Behavior 33(4): 601–24.
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.
Hillygus, D. Sunshine. 2005. “The Missing Link: Exploring the Relationship Between Higher Education and Political Engagement.” Political Behavior 27(1): 2547.
Huckfeldt, Robert, Mendez, Jeanette Morehouse and Osborn, Tracy. 2004. “Disagreement, Ambivalence, and Engagement: The Political Consequences of Heterogeneous Networks.” Political Psychology 25(1): 6595.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lane, Robert E. 1955. “Political Personality and Electoral Choice.” American Political Science Review 49(1): 173–90.
Lasswell, Harold D. 1931. “Bribery.” In Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. Seligman, Edwin R.. New York: Macmillan, 690692.
Levinson, Daniel J. 1958. “The Relevance of Personality for Political Participation.” Public Opinion Quarterly 22(1): 310.
Luskin, Robert C. 1987. “Measuring Political Sophistication.” American Journal of Political Science 31(4): 856–99.
McClosky, Herbert. 1958. “Conservatism and Personality.” American Political Science Review 52(1): 2745.
McCrae, Robert R. 1982. “Consensual Validation of Personality Traits: Evidence from Self-Reports and Ratings.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43(2): 293303.
McCrae, Robert R. 1994. “Openness to Experience: Expanding the Boundaries of Factor V.” European Journal of Personality 8(4): 251–72.
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.
Mondak, Jeffery J. 2010. Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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.
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.
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.
Moutafi, Joanna, Furnham, Adrian and Paltiel, Laurence. 2005. “Can Personality Factors Predict Intelligence?Personality and Individual Differences 38(5): 1021–33.
Mussel, Patrick. 2010. “Epistemic Curiosity and Related Constructs: Lacking Evidence of Discriminant Validity.” Personality and Individual Differences 40: 506–10.
Mussen, Paul H. and Wyszynski, Anne B.. 1952. “Personality and Political Participation.” Human Relations 5(1): 6582.
Mutz, Diana C. 2002a. “Cross-Cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice.” American Political Science Review 96(1): 111–26.
Mutz, Diana C. 2002b. “The Consequences of Cross-Cutting Networks for Political Participation.” American Journal of Political Science 46(4): 838855.
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.
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.
Rokeach, Milton. 1960. The Open and Closed Mind. New York: Basic Books.
Sadowski, Cyril J. and Cogburn, Helen E.. 1997. “Need for Cognition in the Big-Five Factor Structure.” Journal of Psychology 131(3): 307–12.
Sniderman, Paul M. 1975. Personality and Democratic Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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.
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.
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.
Verba, Sidney, Schlozman, Kay Lehman and Brady, Henry E.. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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.
Zaller, John. 1990. “Political Awareness, Elite Opinion Leadership and the Mass Survey Response.” Social Cognition 8(1): 125–53.
Zeidner, Moshe and Matthews, Gerald. 2000. Intelligence and Personality. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Blanchet supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (192 KB)
192 KB

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

  • Alexandre Blanchet (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.