Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-kpkbf Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-02T00:07:25.099Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2009

John T. Jost*
Department of Psychology, New York University
Tessa V. West
Department of Psychology, New York University
Samuel D. Gosling
Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
Professor John T. Jost, Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10003. E-mail:


We conducted a longitudinal study involving 734 college students over a three-month period that included the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The study investigated factors such as respondents' personality characteristics and ideological proclivities in predicting perceptions of the major candidates and both stability and change in voting preferences for Barack Obama and John McCain. Previous research on personality and political orientation suggests that Openness to New Experiences is positively associated with liberal political preferences, whereas Conscientiousness is positively associated with conservative preferences; we replicated these results in the context of the current study. Several ideological factors also predicted conversion to Obama's candidacy. These included respondents' degree of self-reported liberalism, perceptions of their parents as liberal (versus conservative), and lower scores on measures of authoritarianism and political system justification (i.e., support for the prevailing system of electoral politics and government). The effects of Openness and Conscientiousness on candidate preferences were statistically mediated by ideological variables, providing further evidence that general predispositions exist that link personality and political orientation, and these are likely to play a significant role in electoral politics. Implications for the integration of “top-down” (institutional) and “bottom-up” (psychological) approaches to the study of political behavior are discussed.

Copyright © W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research 2009

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.)



Abramowitz, Alan I. and Saunders, Kyle L. (2008). Is Polarization Really a Myth? Journal of Politics, 70(2), 542555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Adorno, Theodor W., Frenkel-Brunswik, Else, Levinson, Daniel J., Sanford, R. Nevitt (1950). The Authoritarian Personality. Oxford, UK: Harpers.Google Scholar
Allport, Gordon W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, Robert A. (1988). Enemies of Freedom: Understanding Right-Wing Authoritarianism. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, Robert A. (1996). The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, Robert A. (1998). The Other “Authoritarian Personality.” In Zanna, Mark P. (Ed.), Vol. 30 of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, pp. 4792. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
Aron, Raymond ([1957] 1968). The End of the Ideological Age? In Waxman, Chaim Isaac (Ed.), The End of Ideology Debate, pp. 2748. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
Barker, David C. and Tinnick, James D. II (2006). Competing Visions of Parental Roles and Ideological Constraint. American Political Science Review, 100(2): 249263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barnea, Marina F. and Schwartz, Shalom H. (1998). Values and Voting. Political Psychology, 19(1): 1740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baron, Reuben M. and Kenny, David A. (1986). The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research: Conceptual, Strategic and Statistical Considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6): 11731182.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bell, Daniel (1960). The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
Block, Jack and Block, Jeanne H. (2006). Nursery School Personality and Political Orientation Two Decades Later. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(5): 734749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonanno, George A. and Jost, John T. (2006). Conservative Shift among High-Exposure Survivors of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28(4): 311323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boshier, Roger and Izard, Alison (1972). Do Conservative Parents Use Harsh Child-Rearing Practices? Psychological Reports, 31(3): 734.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brown, Roger ([1965] 2004). The Authoritarian Personality and the Organization of Attitudes. In Jost, John T. and Sidanius, Jim (Eds.), Political Psychology: Key Readings, pp. 3968. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
Byrne, Donn and Przybyla, D. P. J. (1980). Authoritarianism and Political Preferences in 1980. Bulletin of Psychonomic Society, 16: 471472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philip E., Miller, Warren, and Stokes, Donald ([1960] 1965). The American Voter. Oxford, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
Caprara, Gian Vittorio, Barbaranelli, Claudio, and Zimbardo, Philip G. (1999). Personality Profiles and Political Parties. Political Psychology, 20(1): 175197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carmines, Edward G. and Stimson, James A. (1989). Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Carney, Dana R., Jost, John T., Gosling, Samuel D., and Potter, Jeff (2008). The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind. Political Psychology, 29(6): 807840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Converse, Philip E. (1964). The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics. In Apter, David E. (Ed.), Ideology and Discontent, pp. 206261. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Cunningham, William A., Nezlek, John B., and Banaji, Mahzarin R. (2004). Implicit and Explicit Ethnocentrism: Revisiting the Ideologies of Prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(10): 13321346.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Danso, Henry, Hunsberger, Bruce, and Pratt, Michael (1997). The Role of Parental Religious Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism in Child-Rearing Goals and Practices. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(44): 496511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davies, James C. (1965). The Family's Role in Political Socialization. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 361(2): 1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dean, John W. (2004). Conservatives without Conscience. New York: Viking.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
Duckitt, John (2001). A Dual-Process Cognitive-Motivational Theory of Ideology and Prejudice. Vol. 33 of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, pp. 41113. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
Duckitt, John and Sibley, Chris G. (2009). A Dual Process Motivational Model of Ideological Attitudes and System Justification. In Jost, John T., Kay, Aaron C., and Thorisdottir, Hulda (Eds.), Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification, pp. 292313. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eisenman, Russel and Sirgo, Henry B. (1991). Liberals versus Conservatives: Personality, Child-Rearing Attitudes, and Birth Order/Sex Differences. Bulletin of Psychonomic Society, 29: 240242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ekehammar, Bo, Akrami, Nazar, Gylje, Magnus, and Zakrisson, Ingrid (2004). What Matters Most to Prejudice: Big Five Personality, Social Dominance Orientation, or Right-Wing Authoritarianism? European Journal of Personality, 18(6): 463482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellison, Christopher G., Bartkowski, John P., and Segal, Michelle L. (1996). Do Conservative Protestant Parents Spank More Often? Further Evidence from the National Survey of Families and Households. Social Science Quarterly, 77: 663673.Google Scholar
Erikson, Robert S., MacKuen, Michael B., and Stimson, James A. (2002). The Macro Polity. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Feldman, Stanley and Stenner, Karen (1997). Perceived Threat and Authoritarianism. Political Psychology, 18(4): 741770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fiorina, Morris P., Abrams, Samuel J., and Pope, Jeremy C. (2006). Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, 2nd ed.New York: Longman.Google Scholar
Frymer, Paul (1999). Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan, Huber, Gregory A., Raso, Connor, and Ha, Shang (2008). Personality and Political Behavior. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
Goldberg, Lewis R. (1992). The Development of Markers for the Big-Five Factor Structure. Psychological Assessment, 4(1): 2642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gosling, Samuel D., Rentfrow, Peter J., and Swann, William B. Jr. (2003). A Very Brief Measure of the Big Five Personality Domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37: 504528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Graber, Doris A. (2004). Mediated Politics and Citizenship in the Twenty-First Century. Annual Review of Psychology, 55: 545571.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hanson, David J. and White, Bruce J. (1973). Authoritarianism and Candidate Preference in the 1972 Presidential Election. Psychological Reports, 32(3): 1158.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Harris, Judith Rich (1999). The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
Higgins, Jerry (1965). Authoritarianism and Candidate Preference. Psychological Reports, 16: 603604.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jennings, M. Kent and Niemi, Richard G. (1981). Generations and Politics: A Panel Study of Young Adults and Their Parents. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
John, Oliver P. and Srivastava, Sanjay (1999). The Big Five Trait Taxonomy: History, Measurement, and Theoretical Perspectives. In Pervin, Lawrence A. and John, Oliver P. (Eds.), Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, 2nd ed., pp. 102138. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
Jost, John T. (2006). The End of the End of Ideology. American Psychologist, 61(7): 651670.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Nosek, Brian A. (2004). A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo. Political Psychology, 25(6): 881919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jost, John T., Federico, Christopher M., and Napier, Jaime L. (2009). Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities. Annual Review of Psychology, 60: 307337.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Glaser, Jack, Kruglanski, Arie W., Sulloway, Frank J. (2003). Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3): 339375.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Ledgerwood, Alison, and Hardin, Curtis D. (2008a). Shared Reality, System Justification, and the Relational Basis of Ideological Beliefs. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(1): 171186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jost, John T., Liviatan, Ido, van der Toorn, Jojanneke, Ledgerwood, Alison, Mandisodza, Anesu, and Nosek, Brian A. (in press). System Justification: How Do We Know It's Motivated? In Kay, Aaron C., Bobocel, D. Ramona, Zanna, Mark P., and Olson, James M. (Eds.), Vol. 11 of The Psychology of Justice and Legitimacy: The Ontario Symposium. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Jost, John T., Napier, Jamie L., Thorisdottir, Hulda, Gosling, Samuel D., Palfai, Tibor P., and Ostafin, Brian (2007). Are Needs to Manage Uncertainty and Threat Associated with Political Conservatism or Ideological Extremity? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(7): 9891007.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Nosek, Brian A., and Gosling, Samuel D. (2008b). Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(2): 126136.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kemmelmeier, Markus (2004). Authoritarianism and Candidate Support in the U.S. Presidential Elections of 1996 and 2000. Journal of Social Psychology, 144(2): 218221.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lane, Robert E. (1962). Political Ideology. Oxford, UK: Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C. and Carsey, Thomas M. (2002). Party Polarization and “Conflict Extension” in the American Electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 46: 786802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lipset, Seymour M. (1960). Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
Martin, John L. (2001). The Authoritarian Personality, 50 Years Later: What Lessons Are There for Political Psychology? Political Psychology, 22(1): 126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCann, Stewart J. H. and Stewin, Leonard L. (1986). Authoritarianism and Canadian Voting Preferences for Political Party, Prime Minister, and President. Psychological Reports, 59(3): 12681270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McClosky, Herbert (1958). Conservatism and Personality. American Political Science Review, 52(1): 2745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCrae, Robert R. (1996). Social Consequences of Experiential Openness. Psychological Bulletin, 120(3): 323337.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McCrae, Robert R. and Costa, Paul T. Jr. (1999). A Five-Factor Theory of Personality. In Pervin, Lawrence A. and John, Oliver P. (Eds.), Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, 2nd ed., pp. 139153. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
Mehrabian, Albert (1996). Relations among Political Attitudes, Personality, and Psychopathology Assessed with New Measures of Libertarianism and Conservatism. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 18: 469491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Menand, Louis (2004). The Unpolitical Animal: How Political Science Understands Voters. New Yorker, August 30, pp. 92–96.Google Scholar
Napier, Jamie L. and Jost, John T. (2008). The “Antidemocratic Personality” Revisited: A Cross-National Investigation of Working-Class Authoritarianism. Journal of Social Issues, 64(3): 595617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Niemi, Richard G. and Jennings, M. Kent (1991). Issues and Inheritance in the Formation of Party Identification. American Journal of Political Science, 35: 970988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petrocik, John Richard (1989). An Expected Party Vote: New Data for an Old Concept. American Journal of Political Science, 33: 4466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinker, Steven (2003). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
Poole, Keith T. and Rosenthal, Howard (1997). Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Rathbun, Brian C. (2007). Hierarchy and Community at Home and Abroad: Evidence of a Common Structure of Domestic and Foreign Policy Beliefs in American Elites. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 51(3): 379407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rentfrow, Peter J., Jost, John T., Gosling, Samuel D., and Potter, Jeffrey (2009). Statewide Differences in Personality Predict Voting Patterns in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1996–2004. In Jost, John T., Kay, Aaron C., and Thorisdottir, Hulda (Eds.), Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification, pp. 314347. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Riemann, Rainer, Grubich, Claudia, Hempel, Susanne, Mergl, Susanne, and Richter, Manfred (1993). Personality and Attitudes towards Current Political Topics. Personality and Individual Differences, 15(3): 313321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roiser, Martin and Willig, Carla (2002). The Strange Death of the Authoritarian Personality: 50 Years of Psychological and Political Debate. History of the Human Sciences, 15(4): 7196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rokeach, Milton (1960). The Open and Closed Mind: Investigations into the Nature of Belief Systems and Personality Systems. Oxford, UK: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Saucier, Gerard (2000). Isms and the Structure of Social Attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2): 366385.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Scheepers, Peer, Felling, Albert, and Peters, Jan (1990). Social Conditions, Authoritarianism and Ethnocentrism: A Theoretical Model of the Early Frankfurt School Updated and Tested. European Sociological Review, 6(1): 3954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sears, David O. and Levy, Sheri (2003). Childhood and Adult Political Development. In Sears, David O., Huddy, Leonie, and Jervis, Robert (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, pp. 60109. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Sears, David O., van Laar, Colette, Carrillo, Mary, and Kosterman, Rick (1997). Is It Really Racism? The Origins of White Americans' Opposition to Race-Targeted Policies. Public Opinion Quarterly, 61: 1653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shils, Edward A. (1954). Authoritarianism: “Right” and “Left.” In Christie, Richard and Jahoda, Marie (Eds.), Studies in the Scope and Method of “The Authoritarian Personality,” pp. 2449. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
Sidanius, Jim (1978). Intolerance of Ambiguity and Socio-Politico Ideology: A Multidimensional Analysis. European Journal of Social Psychology, 8(2): 215235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sidanius, Jim and Ekehammar, Bo (1979). Political Socialization: A Multivariate Analysis of Swedish Political Attitude and Preference Data. European Journal of Social Psychology, 9(3): 265279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sidanius, Jim and Pratto, Felicia (1999). Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sidanius, Jim, Pratto, Felicia, and Bobo, Lawrence D. (1996). Racism, Conservatism, Affirmative Action, and Intellectual Sophistication: A Matter of Principled Conservatism or Group Dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3): 476490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M. and Bullock, John (2004). A Consistency Theory of Public Opinion and Political Choice: The Hypothesis of Menu Dependence. In Saris, William E. and Sniderman, Paul M. (Eds.), Studies in Public Opinion: Attitudes, Nonattitudes, Measurement Error, and Change, pp. 337357. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Stenner, Karen (2005). The Authoritarian Dynamic. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stimson, James A. (2004). Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomkins, Silvan (1963). Left and Right: A Basic Dimension of Ideology and Personality. In White, Robert W. (Ed.), The Study of Lives, pp. 388411. Chicago, IL: Atherton.Google Scholar
Trapnell, Paul D. (1994). Openness versus Intellect: A Lexical Left Turn. European Journal of Personality, 8(4): 273290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Hiel, Alain and Mervielde, Ivan (2004). Openness to Experience and Boundaries in the Mind: Relationships with Cultural and Economic Conservatism. Journal of Personality, 72(4): 659686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Hiel, Alain, Mervielde, Ivan, and De Fruyt, Filip (2004). The Relationship between Maladaptive Personality and Right Wing Ideology. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(2): 405417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiggins, Jerry S. (1996). The Five-Factor Model of Personality: Theoretical Perspectives. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
Wilcox, W. Bradford (1998). Conservative Protestant Childrearing: Authoritarian or Authoritative? American Sociological Review, 63: 796809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolfe, Alan (2005). The Authoritarian Personality Revisited. Chronicle of Higher Education, October 7. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 1, 2009).Google Scholar
Zaller, John R. (1992). The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar