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Stripping the Political Cynic: A Psychological Exploration of the Concept of Political Cynicism


Alain Van Hiel, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium. E-mail:


The high level of political cynicism in contemporary society is often considered a serious threat to democracy. The concept, however, has received only scant attention in psychology. The current work introduces political cynicism and extensively explores its psychological implications by investigating the concept's validity, predictive utility and status as a dispositional variable. Our results revealed that political cynicism is empirically distinguishable from the closely related constructs of social cynicism and political trust. Furthermore, political cynicism was found to strongly related to a wide range of political variables, such as voting intentions, political normlessness and political estrangement, as well as to broad social attitudes and racial prejudice. Finally, we show that political cynicism yields limited but meaningful relationships with Neuroticism and Agreeableness, although social cynicism is more clearly related to the Five-Factor Model personality dimensions. It is therefore concluded that political cynicism can be reliably measured and distinguished from closely related concepts and that it yields meaningful relationships with other relevant psychological variables. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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