When Parsimony Subdues Distinctiveness: Simplified Public Perceptions of Politicians’ Personality



Voters develop uniquely simplified perceptions of political candidates’ personalities during election campaigns. In an earlier study, voters described their own personalities, and also those of celebrities, using the same five factors typical of the Big Five model of personality. In contrast, the appraisal of political candidates’ personalities by voters in both Italy and the United States was reduced to only a few factors. The present research extends that exploration of the relationship between personality and politics to the public’s perception of politicians’ personalities across a wider variety of politicians and across a long time span after an election campaign. Two studies conducted in Italy, with more than 3,000 voters, replicated the earlier results: The factors of Energy and Agreeableness are primary anchors for evaluating politicians’ personalities both during campaigns and for several years thereafter. Also uncovered were congruences between the ways that voters tend to present themselves (self-schemata) and the schemata they use to evaluate candidates representing their political preference.