Polarization is a worrying development in many democracies. Especially when this concerns deep mutual disliking of groups with opposing political views or identities. Arguably, this mutual dislike is rooted in personality differences, or even physiological differences between liberals and conservatives. My research has investigated the nature and origins of (affective) polarization. So far, we cannot replicate the evidence for differences in physiological responses of liberals and conservatives. We also show that the relationship between personality and politics is bidirectional: personality causes politics but politics also causes personality (Bakker, Lelkes, & Malka 2021). We do find that partisanship has strong effects. People feel disgust for politicians from the opposing side. They literally pull up their noses when seeing them (Bakker, Schumacher & Homan 2020). People that strongly identify with parties and have higher levels of cognitive resources are more likely to follow cues from their party (Bakker, Lelkes & Malka 2020).

Relevant publications 


  • Bakker, B.N., Lelkes, Y., Malka, A. (2021). Reconsidering the link between personality and political preferences. American Political Science Review, 115(4), 1482-1498. (Open access)
  • Bakker, B.N., & Schumacher, G., & Rooduijn, M. (2021). Hot Politics. Affective responses to political communication. American Political Science Review, 115(1), 150-164. (Open access)
  • Bakker, B.N., & Schumacher, G., & Homan, M. (2020). Yikes! Are we disgusted by politicians? Politics and the Life Sciences, 39(2), 135-153. (Open access)
  • Bakker, B.N., Schumacher, G., Gothreau, C., & Arceneaux, K. (2020). Conservatives and liberals have similar physiological responses to threats: Evidence from three replication. Nature Human Behaviour, 4, 613-621. Preprint
  • Bakker, B.N., Lelkes, Y. & Malka (2020). Understanding partisan cue receptivity: Tests from predictions from the bounded rationality and expressive utility perspectives. The Journal of Politics. 82(3), 1061-1077. (Open access)
  • Schoonvelde, M., Brosius, A., Schumacher, S. & Bakker, B.N. (2019). Liberals lecture, conservatives communicate: Analyzing complexity and ideology in 381,609 speeches. PloS one, 14(2),¬† e0208450. (Open access)
  • Bakker, B.N. & Lelkes, Y. (2018). Selling ourselves short. How abbreviated measures of personality change the way we think about personality and politics. The Journal of Politics, 80(4), 1311-1325. (Open access)
  • Bakker, B.N., Hopmann, D.N., & Persson, M. (2015). Personality traits and party identification over time. European Journal of Political Research 54(2), 197-215. (Open access)