Article

Do birds of a feather flock together? The personality traits of politicians and bureaucrats in decentralized government

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

A substantial body of work has highlighted the distinctive personality trait levels of elected officials, but very little is known about the personality of those who actually implement the political will of these officials, namely, bureaucrats. We sent surveys to all Danish municipal politicians and high-level bureaucrats for whom contact information could be obtained (92% of total). With response rates of 53% and 40% for politicians and bureaucrats, respectively, our sample of political elites across the two groups represents the best-powered study of political elites to date. Responses to our 30-item Big Five survey (the BFI-2-S; Soto and John, 2017a; Vedel et al., 2020) highlighted substantial similarity among various categories of political elites. For example, differences between bureaucrats and elected officials were small on average, and less than half that observed in a recent study comparing Danish elected officials with a representative population sample (Nørgaard & Klemmensen, 2018). Comparisons between bureaucrats of different rank partially aligned with results on executive personality (Ones & Dilchert, 2009). Potential implications for effective political functioning and for meeting the needs of those with personalities diverging from those of political elites are briefly discussed.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... Furthermore, these similarities extend to other categories of political elites (e.g. see personality similarities between Danish municipal politicians and high-level bureauocrats inFlorczak et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the alleged increasing importance given to politicians’ personalities, the similarities and differences between citizens and politicians regarding their personality traits have been insufficiently studied. This research analyses the personality similarities and differences between citizens and politicians in Spain across party allegiances and ideologies. For this, we use two representative surveys for citizens and MPs. Our results show that Spanish politicians are a more homogeneous population—regarding their personality traits—than Spanish citizens, and that Spanish MPs are more sociable and imaginative and less lazy and artistic than the average citizen, which is consistent with a ‘politician’s personality’.
Article
This article contributes to the emerging scholarship on the gender gap in political ambitions. While appointed party positions offer politically minded people the opportunity to have further political careers outside the elected path, the extent to which women prefer such alternative careers is unclear. This article investigates the gender gap in the political ambitions of young people in Norway. Studying the gender gap in a country with numerous role models and established opportunity structures allows us to understand how individual and contextual factors might affect ambitions for different elected and appointed political positions. This research also explores the impact of personality and upbringing. The article draws on a 2019–20 survey of young party member elites. Multivariate analysis reveals that gender is a main factor in differences in ambition for elected positions but less so for appointed positions. Key messages Gender can explain differences in ambition for elected political positions in Norway. Male and female youth politicians are equally interested in appointed political positions. Youth politicians who are competitive, self-confident, determined, leader-like, achievement oriented and socially confident have higher political ambitions (both elected and appointed). </ul
Article
While related fields have turned to personality to understand human behavior, we know relatively little about its role in and impact in public administration. We review how personality has been studied in public administration and offer an empirical test of how it relates to policymaker attitudes about administrative arrangements. Using the “Big Five” framework and a sample of elected politicians, we conduct two studies showing how personality is associated with policymaker tolerance of the administrative burdens that social welfare recipients experience. Politicians with high conscientiousness are more tolerant of burdens, suggesting that they expect similar attention to detail from others. Conversely, politicians who score higher on the trait of openness to experience are less tolerant of burdens, implying that greater empathy towards the experience of others reduces burden tolerance. These relationships hold even after controlling for political ideology, the standard explanation for burden tolerance in welfare programs.
Article
Full-text available
Following the publication of the Big Five Inventory- 2 (BFI-2) and its abbreviated forms (the 30-item BFI-2-S and 15-item BFI-2-XS), two studies were conducted to develop and validate a Danish translation of these measures. Study 1 first developed a preliminary Danish BFI-2 item pool consisting of translations of the 60 BFI-2 items, then tested and refined this item pool using two waves of data collection, and identified a set of 60-item formulations for the Danish BFI-2. Study 1 then examined the domain- and facet-level structure of the Danish BFI-2, and the construct validity and reliability of this measure. Study 2 tested the generalizability of the measurement properties of the Danish BFI-2 found in Study 1 as well as the preliminary measurement properties of its abbreviated forms (the Danish BFI-2-S and BFI-2-XS) in a new sample. The results of these studies indicate that the Danish BFI-2 is a reliable and valid personality measure with psychometric properties and construct validity corresponding to the English-language original. The preliminary results regarding measurement properties of the abbreviated forms are encouraging and should inspire further validation.
Article
Full-text available
We examined the relationship between Big Five personality and the political ideology of elected politicians. To this end, we studied 303 politicians from Flanders, Wallonia, and Canada, relating their self-reported Big Five scores to a partisanship-based measure of political ideology. Our findings show that, in line with the congruency model of personality, Openness to Experience is the best and most consistent correlate of political ideology, with politicians high on Openness to Experience being more likely to be found among the more progressive left-wing political parties.
Article
Full-text available
The Big Five Inventory–2 (BFI-2) uses 60 items to hierarchically assess the Big Five personality domains and 15 more-specific facet traits. The present research develops two abbreviated forms of the BFI-2—the 30-item BFI-2-S and the 15-item BFI-2-XS—and then examines their measurement properties. At the level of the Big Five domains, we find that the BFI-2-S and BFI-2-XS retain much of the full measure’s reliability and validity. At the facet level, we find that the BFI-2-S may be useful for examining facet traits in reasonably large samples, whereas the BFI-2-XS should not be used to assess facets. Finally, we discuss some key tradeoffs to consider when deciding whether to administer an abbreviated form instead of the full BFI-2.
Article
Full-text available
[Abstract This article inquires into the impact of personality factors on the selection and self-selection of parliamentary elites. I compare personality profiles of German MPs and the German population obtained through survey research, and for some comparisons I utilize elite and mass samples matched for education, gender, and age. I ask further if MPs’ personalities have an impact on their preferences for expansionist or restricted government budgets and welfare state benefits, the extension or limitation of civic rights, and several other policies. Party affiliations of MPs are used as a control variable. I find that MPs’ personality traits differ strikingly from those of the German population and from those of followers in most of the parties with which MPs are affiliated., AbstractThis article inquires into the impact of personality factors on the selection and self-selection of parliamentary elites. I compare personality profiles of German MPs and the German population obtained through survey research, and for some comparisons I utilize elite and mass samples matched for education, gender, and age. I ask further if MPs’ personalities have an impact on their preferences for expansionist or restricted government budgets and welfare state benefits, the extension or limitation of civic rights, and several other policies. Party affiliations of MPs are used as a control variable. I find that MPs’ personality traits differ strikingly from those of the German population and from those of followers in most of the parties with which MPs are affiliated.]
Article
Full-text available
This paper investigates gender differences in personality traits, both at the level of the Big Five and at the sublevel of two aspects within each Big Five domain. Replicating previous findings, women reported higher Big Five Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism scores than men. However, more extensive gender differences were found at the level of the aspects, with significant gender differences appearing in both aspects of every Big Five trait. For Extraversion, Openness, and Conscientiousness, the gender differences were found to diverge at the aspect level, rendering them either small or undetectable at the Big Five level. These findings clarify the nature of gender differences in personality and highlight the utility of measuring personality at the aspect level.
Article
Full-text available
Political conservatism has been characterized by resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, with liberalism characterized by the polar opposite of these values. Political attitudes are heritable and may be influenced by basic personality traits. In previous research, conservatism (vs. liberalism) has been associated positively with Conscientiousness and negatively with Openness-Intellect, consistent with the association of conservatism with resistance to change. Less clear, however, are the personality traits relating to egalitarianism. In two studies, using a personality model that divides each of the Big Five into two aspects, the present research found that one aspect of Agreeableness (Compassion) was associated with liberalism and egalitarianism, whereas the other (Politeness) was associated with conservatism and traditionalism. In addition, conservatism and moral traditionalism were positively associated with the Orderliness aspect of Conscientiousness and negatively with Openness-Intellect. These findings contribute to a more nuanced understanding of personality's relation to political attitudes and values.
Article
Full-text available
A rare collection of personality assessments from 103 Italian politicians revealed predictable patterns of contrasts and similarities with personality dimensions from a large normative sample (N = 4,578). Three modal personality characteristics distinguished politicians, with their significantly higher levels of Energy, Agreeableness, and Social Desirability, from the general public. Comparability between politicians and the public existed on dimensions of Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, and Openness (Big Five Questionnaire assessment). Politicians from rival coalitions differed on several dimensions; center-right was higher than center-left in Energy and Conscientiousness. Congruencies emerged between politicians and voters for their coalition on all personality dimensions, except that center-left politicians were higher in Energy than center-left voters, and center-right politicians were higher than voters in both Energy and Agreeableness.
Article
This paper is the first to explore variation in self-reported Honesty-Humility trait levels among politicians. In a relatively representative sample of Danish candidates (n = 239) for the national parliament, we find that more experienced, female, and more right-wing politicians self-report higher levels of Honesty-Humility. Comparing the self-reports of politicians to these of a community sample, we find that politicians self-report much higher levels of Honesty-Humility than ordinary citizens do. In addition to this, politicians self-report systematically higher on the HEXACO factors Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience, and lower on Emotionality. By and large, the latter findings replicate existing work relying on Big Five/Five Factor personality models. We end with a discussion on the relevance of self-reported personality traits of politicians.
Article
This study uses the Big Five framework to investigate personality differences between politicians and the general public and between politicians themselves based on ideology and party identification. A 50-item Big Five questionnaire was taken by 2586 respondents at the Open Psychology data website and 278 American state legislators. The author finds that politicians are more Extraverted, Agreeable, Emotionally Stable, and Conscientious than the general public. At the same time, they are slightly lower on Intellect/Imagination. All results are statistically significant for all traits and both sexes, except with regards to females and Intellect. When comparing politicians to one another and controlling for demographic variables, Republicans score higher on Conscientiousness and lower on Intellect and Agreeableness. These findings hold for a smaller sample when ideology is the dependent variable, although only Intellect/Imagination reaches statistical significance. Conservative ideology is also associated with Emotional Stability. The results show important differences between politicians and the public, and reveal personality differences among elites that are in some ways analogous to the results we find in more representative samples.
Article
Although numerous scholars claim the eminent demise of bureaucracy, this article argues that bureaucracy will not only survive in the twenty-first century but will flourish. The core of the argument is that the large-scale tasks that government must perform-national defense, a social welfare system, political monitoring of the economy, etc.-will remain key functions of governments in the twenty-first century and that bureaucracies, likely public but possibly private, will continue to be the most effective way to do these tasks. Bureaucracy has weathered other calls for its demise before; current efforts are likely to meet similar fates. After a brief discussion of definitions and the meaning of bureaucracy, the major sections of this article deal with six challenges to bureaucracy. Some of these challenges are intellectual; others are part of real-world ongoing reform efforts in a variety of countries.
Article
Contemporary public management includes initiatives that pursue reforms. Reforms centered on producing more and better public services include those that aim to tighten and streamline the management of public bureaucracies, those that increase competition in order to offer citizens more choices, and those that center on increasing citizen participation in political and administrative processes. Other reforms attempt to empower workers in the hope of making them more creative and productive. Superficially, it may seem paradoxical that each vision of how to improve public management claims that it preserves and enhances democracy and improves governmental effectiveness. This article discusses three very different answers to the question of how public management can be both effective and democratic. Next, the research literature on several mechanisms for making public management more democratic is reviewed. And finally, a separate discussion briefly treats the question of how to make the internal workings of public organizations more democratic.
Article
Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior is the first study in more than thirty years to investigate the broad significance of personality traits for mass political behavior. Drawing on the Big Five personality trait framework, Jeffery J. Mondak argues that attention to personality provides a valuable means to integrate biological and environmental influences via rich, nuanced theories and empirical tests of the antecedents of political behavior. Development of such holistic accounts is critical, Mondak contends, if inquiry is to move beyond simple “blank slate” environmental depictions of political engagement. Analyses examining multiple facets of political information, political attitudes, and participation reveal that the Big Five trait dimensions – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability – produce both direct and indirect effects on a wide range of political phenomena.
Article
When evaluating empirical papers for publication, grant proposals, or individual contributions (e.g., awarding tenure), the basic question one should ask is how much the contribution adds to understanding in psychology and not whether the contribution takes a particular form or represents one particular model of how to do empirical studies. Academic psychology has flourished with its mastery of the hypothesis-experiment model of science and its expertise in generating and eliminating alternative hypotheses and isolating causation. These accomplishments are a critical part of psychology, and they are well and appropriately taught by psychologists. However, they are only a part of science and should not comprise the almost exclusive criteria for evaluating research. In particular, discovery of fundamental phenomena, such as functional relations that apply to the real world and have generality, should have a higher priority in psychology. Such findings have been the basis for theoretical advances in other natural sciences. © 2009 Association for Psychological Science.
Article
2,157 presidential delegation slate members during 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976 in California were assessed on the 24 personality scales of the Adjective Check List. Ss differed from the general norms in their higher scores on self-confidence, achievement, and dominance and their lower scores on succorance, abasement, and deference; this pattern displayed transhistorical consistency. In the context of overall profile similarity, Republicians (Rs) differed from Democrats (Ds) by scoring higher than average and higher than the Ds on personal adjustment, order, self-control, and endurance and lower than average and lower than the Ds on change and succorance. Ds scored higher than average and higher than Rs on lability, exhibition, and autonomy. Findings support the transhistorical consistency of liberal–conservative differences in personal style and point to the existence of distinctive patterns of interpersonal behavior for Rs and Ds. Implications for the social atmosphere of party functioning are delineated. (49 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Theory: Theories of the bureaucratic personality by Victor Thompson and Robert Merton hold that personal characteristics of certain bureaucrats make them prefer elaborate rules and regulations, so this study tests such a model. Yet some organizations really do need more rules, so the study also tests a bureaucratic organization model that predicts that characteristics of the organization determine members' preferences for rules. Prominent theories of bureaucracy also suggest that bureaucratic personalities should be more prevalent in public bureaucracies. Hypotheses: Personal characteristics of organizational managers determine their preferences for more rules, so managers higher on alienation and pessimism will perceive a need for more rules. Alternatively, organizational characteristics (such as layers of authority and number of records kept) determine managers' preferences for more rules, so that where there are low levels of such structural characteristics (e.g., few records kept), managers will perceive a need for more rules. Public sector managers should show more of the bureaucratic personality responses than private managers, and prefer more rules. Methods: Correlation and logistic regression analysis is used on data from the National Administrative Studies Project, a mail survey of managers in a wide variety of public and private organizations. Results: Both personal characteristics, such as alienation, and organizational characteristics, such as the number of records kept, show relations to preferences for more rules. Contrary to expectations and to much of the literature, managers in private organizations (mostly business firms) were more likely to prefer more rules than managers in public agencies.
Article
Conflict between elected officials and civil servants is not an uncommon occurrence at the city level and it may at times paralyze the organization. The purpose of this article is to determine whether certain basic personality traits among municipal politicians and public servants could explain why the two groups have differing perspectives and why they may at times have difficulty working together. While they can be a source of considerable tension, these differing traits can also be seen as complementary, in which case they might enhance the organization's performance. Sommaire: Les conflits entre les responsables élus et les fonctionnaires ne sont pas quelque chose de rare à l'échelle des villes et ils peuvent parfois paralyser l'organisme. L'objet du présent article est de déterminer si certains traits de personnalité chez les responsables politiques municipaux et les fonctionnaires pourraient expliquer pourquoi les deux groupes ont des perspectives différentes et pourquoi ils peuvent parfois avoir des difficultés à collaborer. Alors qu'ils peuvent être une source de tension considérable, ces différents traits de personnalité peuvent aussi être considérés comme complémentaires et, dans ce cas, ils pourraient renforcer la performance de l'organisme.
Article
Empirical research is crucial for understanding the personality foundations of political preferences in modern democracies. However, few studies have addressed the personality of top politicians using standard methods to assess basic traits and personal values. In the current research, traits and values of 106 female members of the Italian Parliament were assessed in accordance with the Five-Factor Model of personality and Schwartz's taxonomy. The same variables were measured in a sample of 864 voters taken from the general population. We investigate the extent to which differences in traits and values contribute to ideological orientation of politicians and voters of rival coalitions. A similar pattern of relations was found in both groups. Yet, traits and values contributed to partisanship of politicians much more than to political preferences of voters. Whereas values fully mediated the contribution of traits to voting, energy/extraversion and agreeableness contributed to political partisanship both directly and indirectly, through values.
Personality and legislative politics: The Big Five trait dimensions among U.S. state legislators
  • B J Dietrich
  • S Lasley
  • J J Mondak
  • M L Remmel
  • J Turner
Dietrich, B. J., Lasley, S., Mondak, J. J., Remmel, M. L., & Turner, J. (2012). Personality and legislative politics: The Big Five trait dimensions among U.S. state legislators. Political Psychology, 33(2), 195-210. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012. 00870.x.
Idiographically desirable responding: Individual differences in perceived trait desirability predict overclaiming
  • S G Ludeke
  • Y J Weisberg
  • C G Deyoung
Ludeke, S. G., Weisberg, Y. J., & DeYoung, C. G. (2013). Idiographically desirable responding: Individual differences in perceived trait desirability predict overclaiming. European Journal of Personality, 27(6), 580-592. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.
Bureaucratic structure and personality
  • R K Merton
Merton, R. K. (1940). Bureaucratic structure and personality. Social Forces, 18(4), 560-568.