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Ackermann, Kathrin; Fatke, Matthias and Freitag, Markus (2016): Personality of Interest? Personality Traits, Political Interest and the Democratic Context in Comparative Perspective. ECPR General Conference. Panel Biological Sources, Emotions and Values in Participation, Prag, 7. - 10. September 2016.

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Although political science has recently seen an increasing number of studies focusing on the relationship between personality traits and political behavior and attitudes, only a small number of these studies takes on a comparative perspective. By large, this research gap is caused by a lack of data. New sources of data, especially the World Values Survey (WVS) Wave 6 (2010-2014), are promising in this regard. As the comparative study of personality and politics reveals, however, previous findings do not extend to every other country. How can this variation of relationships be explained? To that end, it is now possible to account for the interaction of personality traits and contextual factors in an international comparison. Our paper makes use of this opportunity scrutinizing the relationship between personality traits and political interest in 25 countries. We argue that this relationship is not universal but depends on the degree of democracy in the country. The core characteristics of democracy and their manifestation in a country should encourage some people to be even more interested in politics while others will withdraw from the political sphere. Building on insights from political psychology, our theoretical expectations are especially clear-cut for four of the Big Five personality traits. We assume that a high degree of democracy in a country will strengthen the political interest of open-minded and extraverted citizens. They appreciate the existence of alternative information and political ideas, the freedom to express their opinion and the opportunity to choose between candidates and ideas. Meanwhile, agreeable and neurotic persons are expected to withdraw from a political arena characterized by debates and competition. We test these expectations empirically using data from the WVS Wave 6, which includes 25 countries showing a considerable variation in the degree of democracy. Hierarchical regression models reveal that the relationships between personality traits and political interest differ across the 25 countries. Cross-level interactions indicate that the level of democracy might be one key factor to disentangle this variation. It acts as a moderating factor with regard to the relationship between personality and interest in politics. (Presented by Kathrin Ackermann.)

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