Personality and political preferences over time: Evidence from a multiwave longitudinal study

Pierce D. Ekstrom, Christopher M. Federico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: We investigate how the relations between the Big Five personality traits and political preferences develop over a campaign. Method: We rely on a six-wave nationwide longitudinal survey from the 2008 U.S. election that included 20,000 respondents (M age = 49, SD = 15; 53% women, 47% men; 82% White, 8% Black, 6% Hispanic/Latino, 1% Asian, 1% Native American, 2% other). Survey weights were applied to approximate a representative sample of the U.S. population. Ns for reported analyses range from 5,160 to 12,535. Results: First, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience were significantly associated with changes in outcomes over time, such that individuals higher in Conscientiousness and lower in Openness tended to become more conservative, identify as more Republican, and evaluate John McCain more favorably relative to Barack Obama. Second, the effects of personality on candidate evaluations were mediated by partisanship and ideology. Finally, we find that the relations between traits and late-campaign candidate evaluations are stronger than those between traits and early-campaign candidate evaluations. Conclusions: Personality plays an important, dynamic role in the formation and change of political preferences over the course of political campaigns—a role not entirely visible in cross-sectional analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-412
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness
  • ideology
  • political preferences


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