Personality and Populism

Together with Gijs Schumacher and Matthijs Rooduijn I work on a project addressing the relationship between personality and support for populist parties.

Abstract. What are the psychological roots of support for populist parties or outfits such as the Tea Party, the Dutch Freedom Party or Germany’s Die Linke? Populist parties have as common denominator that they employ an anti-establishment message, which they combine with some ‘host’ ideology. Building on the congruency model of political preference we expect that a voter’s personality should match with the message and position of her party. We theorize that a low score on the personality trait Agreeableness matches with the anti-establishment message and should predict voting for populist parties. We find evidence for this hypothesis in the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. The relationship between low Agreeableness and voting for populist parties is robust controlling for other personality traits, authoritarianism, socio-demographic characteristics and ideology. Thus, explanations of the success of populism should take personality traits into account.

  •  Bakker, B.N., Rooduijn, M., & Schumacher, G. (2016). Following the leader or following your ideology? The case of Populist Radical Right Voging. (Click here to read the paper)

Abstract. Voting for a populist radical right (PRR) party has been attributed to four attitudes; right-wing ideology, anti-immigrant attitudes, political cynicism and sympathy towards the party leader. In this study we demonstrate that the causal arrow can also be reversed: voters change their attitudes after they voted for a PRR party because they want to reduce the cognitive dissonance they experience. We show that in the Netherlands voters change their left-right positions and leader sympathy after they voted to the PRR Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV). Anti-immigrant attitudes and political cynicism, however, are not affected by voting for a PRR party. This implies that attitudes not only influence the choice for a PRR party, but that the act of voting for such a party also influences citizens’ attitudes again.