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The Relationship Between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies

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Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies

This article seeks to establish that a correlation exists between personality traits of humans and the political ideologies that they hold. This is a political science issue that analyzes the extent to which the two aspects are correlated, and more specifically, the effect of personality traits on political ideologies. Causation is hinged on the assumption that the personality of an individual motivates them towards developing certain political ideologies and attitudes later in life. The basis of this is the perceived observation that personality traits are developed at infancy, while political preferences usually develop much later in life. However, recent studies in political science, and works in disciplines such as psychology and behavioral genetics have shown that political preferences also develop during childhood (Verhulst, Lindon and Hatemi 34). These recent findings aim to justify that the relationship stems from correlation, rather than causation. This means that political ideologies are also influenced by genetic factors, in a similar manner to personality traits.

Verhulst, Lindon and Hatemi (34) present the case for a correlation relationship, which then effectively casts doubt over the existence of a causal relationship between personality traits and political preferences. Through applying a structural model representing direction of causation to a genetically informative sample, the article is able to draw a conclusion on the matter. The results indicate that the political attitudes developed by people are not caused by their personality traits; rather, the correlation is as a result of an innate genetic factor that is common to both. The field of political science, through such studies, is experiencing a renaissance in the findings on the relationship between political preferences and personality traits. Political science views personality traits as being stable differences among individuals which guide their behavior; though personality lacks a universally accepted definition. Personality traits are believed to exist right from the beginning of one’s life, but it is the matter of political attitude that is contentious. However, according to studies, both political attitudes and personality traits have in common the fact that they are influenced by genetic and environmental sources.

In the article, Verhulst, Lindon and Hatemi (35) also assess the reason as to why the relationship between personality traits and political attitudes has been, in the past, considered causal. Contrary to personality traits, political preferences have been thought to emerge when an individual interacts with the political world. This explains why young voters are easily swayed by political tides, since they have weak political attitudes. Their political preferences only develop with time as they engage further with the political world. As a result, if the political attitudes arise much later after personality development, it has been reasonable to settle on the assumption that these political attitudes are caused by personality traits. To show that the relationship is of correlation rather than causation, the strongest indicator has been the finding that political attitudes are influenced by genes. The precursors of political attitudes are present during infancy, which then effectively shows that it is not personality traits that cause political attitudes (Verhulst, Lindon and Hatemi 36).

Conclusively, political science scholars have over the years assumed that the link between personality traits and political preferences is causal. This article contributes significantly towards dispelling that assumption, and puts forth that the connection rests on genetic precursors that are common to both. However, it is essential to note that both arguments are subject to their own limitations; meaning that none is entirely conclusive, but the pointers for correlation are strong. On one hand, Verhulst, Lindon, and Hatemi (48) observe that the reigning assumption of a causal relationship is not supported by sufficient evidence. On the other hand, they assert that the results of correlation studies suggest that human beings are political animals at heart. This means that their political attitudes do not arise as an afterthought. Despite the fact that such political attitudes are measured during adulthood, the foundation elements are part of the core disposition of human beings, even at the early stages of life.

Works Cited

Verhulst, Brad, Lindon, Eaves, J., and Hatemi, Peter, K. “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies.” American Journal of Political Science 56.1 (2011): 34-50.…...

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