Need for Cognition and Conscientiousness as Predictors of Political Interest and Voting Strategy1


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    Ross E. O'Hara is now at Dartmouth College, and Mark I. Walter is now at Salisbury University. This article is based on a senior honors thesis conducted by the first author. The research was supported by a grant from the Albion College Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity. Portions of the article were presented at the 18th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, New York, NY, May 2006.

Ross E. O'Hara, Dartmouth College, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Hinman Box 6207, Hanover, NH 03755. E-mail:


Participants (N = 251) used an Internet-based information board to learn about fictional U.S. presidential candidates in a voting simulation task. Need for cognition and conscientiousness interacted to predict political interest. Participants high in need for cognition and participants high in conscientiousness, regardless of the magnitude of the other construct, exhibited high political interest. Participants low in need for cognition and conscientiousness exhibited low political interest. Additionally, participants high in need for cognition or low in conscientiousness preferred an issue-based voting strategy, whereas those low in need for cognition or high in conscientiousness preferred a candidate-based voting strategy. These findings have important implications for how political information should be disseminated to voters through Internet means, such as political websites.