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Linking Extraversion to Collective and Individual Forms of Political Participation: The Mediating Role of Political Discussion

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Objectives Scholars are increasingly investigating the role of citizens’ personality in activating political behavior. We test whether extraversion is associated to collective political activities (i.e., activities that include social interaction) and individual ones (i.e., activities that do not include social interactions). Methods We use originally collected survey data from five countries (Brazil, Korea, Russia, United States, United Kingdom). Results We found that extraversion is positively and directly related to collective political activities in Brazil, Korea and Russia. Results show no direct relationship between individual forms of political activities and extraversion. However, political discussion fully mediates the relationship between extraversion and individual forms of political activities in all five countries. Conclusion This study contributes to growing discussions on the role of personality traits in explaining political participation across countries, arguing that the relationship between extraversion and diverse forms of political participation are also context‐driven and nourished by political discussion.
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Linking Extraversion to Collective and
Individual Forms of Political Participation: The
Mediating Role of Political Discussion
Brigitte Huber ,University of Vienna
Manuel Goyanes, Carlos III University and University of Salamanca
Homero Gil de Zúñiga, University of Salamanca, Penn State University, and
Universidad Diego Portales
Objectives. Scholars are increasingly investigating the role of citizens’ personality in activating po-
litical behavior. We test whether extraversion is associated to collective political activities (i.e., ac-
tivities that include social interaction) and individual ones (i.e., activities that do not include social
interactions). Methods. We use originally collected survey data from five countries (Brazil, Korea,
Russia, United States, United Kingdom). Results. We found that extraversion is positively and di-
rectly related to collective political activities in Brazil, Korea and Russia. Results show no direct
relationship between individual forms of political activities and extraversion. However, political
discussion fully mediates the relationship between extraversion and individual forms of political
activities in all five countries. Conclusion. This study contributes to growing discussions on the
role of personality traits in explaining political participation across countries, arguing that the re-
lationship between extraversion and diverse forms of political participation are also context-driven
and nourished by political discussion.
As political participation is at the heart of democracy, understanding what makes peo-
ple engage in politics is a key issue for political scientists and communication scholars
alike (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, 1995). In the related literature, there is an ongoing
scholarly debate on the role of personality traits as determinants of political and proso-
cial behavior (Cooper, Golden, and Socha, 2013; Bloeser et al., 2015; Dinesen, Nørgaard,
and Klemmensen, 2014; Jennstål, Uba, and Öberg, 2020; Kline et al., 2019; Lindell and
Strandberg, 2018; Margetts et al., 2015; Rasmussen and Hebbelstrup, 2016). These effects
have been studied at different geographic contexts, including the Netherlands (Bekkers,
2005), Finland (Mattila et al., 2011), Venezuela and Uruguay (Mondak et al., 2011),
South Korea (Ha, Kim, and Jo, 2013), India and Pakistan (Oskarsson and Widmalm,
2016), Italy (Caprara et al., 2006), and Germany (Schoen and Steinbrecher, 2013).
Thus far, extant research has extensively revealed that the effects of extraversion on polit-
ical behavior may hinge on the country of scrutiny (Mondak et al., 2011; Bekkers, 2005;
Mattila et al., 2011) and the forms of participation (Mondak and Halperin, 2008). More
specifically, Mondak and Halperin (2008) argue that extraversion may be related to all
aspects of group-based political participation. We test this assumption by examining the
Direct correspondence to Brigitte Huber, Department of Communication, MiLab, University of Vienna,
1090 Vienna, Austria brigitte.huber@univie.ac.at.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY
C2021 The Authors. Social Science Quarterly published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Southwestern
Social Science Association
DOI: 10.1111/ssqu.12978
2 Social Science Quarterly
potential association between extraversion and political activities that include social inter-
action (e.g., participating in protests) vis-à-vis those that do not include social interaction
(e.g., boycotting). By doing so, we expand the existing literature in two meaningful ways:
First, since most of former studies focus on single national data (except Fatke, 2017; Wein-
schenk, 2017), there is a need for cross-cultural studies. We address this research gap by
investigating the relationship between extraversion and different forms of political partic-
ipation in five different countries. Second, Cawvey et al. (2017) emphasize that the goal
of examining personality and political behavior is not to claim that personality traits offer
the only explanation whereby some citizens become politically active. Instead, they should
be seen as an additional set of relevant variables to explain political attitudes and behavior.
Accordingly, there is an empirical need to investigate indirect paths through which per-
sonality traits may shape people’s behavior regarding politics (Weinschenk, 2017). In this
study, we include political discussion as mediator in our empirical analysis, as it has been
found to be vital antecedent of political participation both at individual and country levels
(Valenzuela, Arriagada, and Scherman, 2012; Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2019).
Specifically, drawing upon representative survey data from five countries worldwide
(Brazil, Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States), this study tests the rela-
tionship between extraversion and two forms of political participation (i.e., collective
vs. individual). Additionally, we implement mediation analysis to test whether political
discussion mediates the relationship between extraversion and the two different forms of
political participation. The study sheds a unique and valuable light on the way individual
personality traits and political discussion contour different paths to become actively
involved in democracy.
Antecedents and Forms of Political Participation
In the related literature, different concepts of political participation have been exten-
sively discussed. Initially, research focused on electoral participation, that is, voting (Mil-
brath, 1965), but the Internet has opened new possibilities for citizens to engage in poli-
tics (Chadwick and Howard, 2008; Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal, 2008) and various
forms of social media and online political participation activities have evolved (Kim and
Hoewe, 2020; Reichert, 2021; Waeterloos, Walrave, and Ponnet, 2021). By now, the forms
of political participation are continuously expanding, including activities such as boy-
cotting, attending street parties, guerilla gardening, posting political blogs, joining flash
mobs, signing petitions, or buying fair-trade products (Deth, 2016); these activities are
typically conceived as unconventional forms of participation, while voting is often pon-
dered as a conventional one (Ardèvol-Abreu, Gil de Zúñiga, and Gámez, 2020). In this
study, we include a wide array of these activities and divide them hinging on their individ-
ual or collective nature.
According to Mondak and Halperin (2008), citizens may engage in politics through
collective or individualist forms of participation. Collective activities require interaction
with other participants and, therefore, are group-based, while individual activities can be
accomplished or performed by citizens alone. Citizens may, for instance, participate in
political meetings/demonstrations and speak at such events. On the opposite, citizens can
also donate money or buy a certain product or service due to the social or political values
of the company, engaging in individualist political activities. We argue that this theoretical
division may play a crucial role when accounting for personality differences and, specifi-
cally, for the effects of extraversion.
Personality and Political Participation 3
Resource theory (Brady, Verba, and Schlozman, 1995) suggests that people need cer-
tain resources to participate in politics, and this include, above all, time, money and civic
skills. This explains why SES has been found to positively predict political participation
(Cho, Gimpel, and Wu, 2006). Additional factors that have been found to influence po-
litical participation are, among others, age and gender (Beauregard, 2014; Kittilson, 2016;
Schlozman et al., 1995; Zukin et al., 2006), ethnicity (Potochnick and Stegmaier, 2020),
sociopolitical antecedents (e.g., political knowledge, interest, efficacy, and trust; for an
overview, see Blais, 2010; Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2019), political discussion (Kim, Wyatt,
and Katz, 1999; McClurg, 2003; Shah et al., 2005), and news use (Choi, 2016; Bakker
and de Vreese, 2011; Gil de Zúñiga, García, and McGregor, 2015; Kim, Chen, and Wang,
2016). We include these variables as controls in our study. Since also macro variables such
as the age of democracy matters (Kitanova, 2020), we include countries with different
democratic antecedents in our study. Recently, scholars started to consider genetic in-
fluence (Chance, 2019) and personality traits in their research on political participation
(Mondak and Halperin, 2008), as we elaborate in the following section.
Personality and Political Participation
A widely used approach to classify personality traits falls within the five-factor theory of
personality (McCrae and Costa, 1999). The “Big Five” personality traits include extraver-
sion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to new experi-
ence. Personality traits have increasingly attracted the attention from scholars interested in
investigating issues revolving political ideology (Alford and Hibbing, 2007; Carney et al.,
2008; Jost et al., 2003; Mondak and Halperin, 2008; Riemann et al., 1993; Van Hiel
and Mervielde, 2004) and political behavior (Dawkins, 2017; Gerber et al., 2011b; Ha,
Kim, and Jo, 2013; Mondak and Halperin, 2008; Vecchione and Caprara, 2009; Wein-
schenk, 2017). Especially, extraversion has been shown to predict a wide array of different
behavioral variables (Bowden-Green, Hinds, and Joinson, 2020). Building on these lines
of research, we theorize about the potential relationship between extraversion and political
participation.
Extraversion and Forms of Political Participation
Research suggests that extroverted citizens are more prone to engage in civic matters
(Mondak et al., 2010), and are more likely to get mobilized by their peers due to their
high sociability (Ha, Kim, and Jo, 2013). Costa and McCrae (1992) showed that extro-
verted citizens are overall more likely to participate in political and civic activities, such as
volunteering and communitarian interactions. Likewise, Gerber et al. (2011b) found that
extraversion is a statistically significant predictor of an index measuring participation in
political campaigns.
Mondak and Halperin (2008) argue that extraversion may be related to all aspects of
group-based political participation. In our study, we test this assumption empirically. Be-
cause individuals who exhibited higher levels of extraversion are more prone and enjoy the
participation in activities that involve social contacts (Mondak and Halperin, 2008), we
presume that they will be more likely to engage in collective forms of political participa-
tion. Citizens who are extroverted and open to human-to-human socializing opportunities
are more interested in the breadth of activities than the depth (Dynes, Hassell, and Miles,
2019), enjoying the interaction with others and harnessing high sociability (Ha, Kim, and
Jo, 2013). In groups, extroverts tend to be the leading voice and have high participation
4 Social Science Quarterly
(Dynes, Hassell, and Miles, 2019). In short, we presume that extroverted citizens like forms
of political participation that include social interactions (Mondak et al., 2010). Therefore,
extroverts should be more inclined to engage in collective political activities such as partic-
ipating in protests or demonstrations. Accordingly, we formulate the following hypothesis:
H1: Extraversion is positively related to collective forms of political participation.
Exhibiting higher levels of extraversion and collective political activities does not pre-
clude citizens to engage in individual political activities to a similar extent. Prior studies
have suggested that extroverted people enjoy the interaction with others (Ha, Kim, and
Jo, 2013), especially in participatory political activities (Mondak and Halperin, 2008). As
a result, extraversion is, in principle, related to participation in group-oriented political
activities (Gallego and Oberski, 2012). However, a number of scholars found inconsistent
results for the relationship between extraversion and individual political activities (Mon-
dak and Halperin, 2008; Gerber et al., 2011b). For instance, Mondak and Halperin (2008)
probed the ways in which extraversion is unrelated to activities that do not require social
interaction such as voting or wearing stickers, while Gerber et al. (2011b) and Pruysersa
et al. (2019) found a significant association between extraversion and voting, an individual
activity. Hence, due to inconsistent findings and the lack of a clear theoretical explanation
to elucidate the association between extraversion and individual political activities, we pose
the following research question:
RQ1: How is extraversion related to individual forms of political participation?
Extraversion and Political Discussion
Extraversion sets forward an energetic approach with respect to the world (John and
Srivastava, 1999). Extraverted people have high social skills and hold many friendships
(McCrae and Costa, 1999). They are characterized by activeness, enthusiasm, outgoing-
ness, and talkativeness (McCrae and John, 1992). Research on personality traits and po-
litical behavior has shown that extraverted citizens are more open to new experiences and
are also more interested in politics (McCrae and Costa, 2008). Research also found a
positive relationship between extraversion and offline political activities (Kim, 2015; Vec-
chione and Caprara, 2009). For instance, Weinschenk (2017) argues that extravert people
like expressing themselves and can be expected to engage in activities that allow them to
express their opinion like political talks, conversations, or discussions. Extroverted individ-
uals are, for instance, more likely to be members in online groups (Ross et al., 2009) and
to use social media for making new ties and staying in contact with existing ties (Yiyan
et al., 2021). Since extraverts are typically embedded in large social networks (Gallego
and Oberski, 2012), and due to the more frequent interaction with others (Vecchione and
Caprara, 2009), they should be more prone to be involved in interpersonal political discus-
sions (Hibbing, Ritchie, and Anderson, 2011). In fact, Mondak and Halperin (2008) show
that extraversion is associated with more frequent political talks (Mondak and Halperin,
2008). Song and Boomgaarden (2019) found a positive relationship between extraversion
and frequency of discussion about economy. Similarly, Gronostay’s (2018) study indicates
that extrovert students are more likely to approach arguments, which in turn increased the
likelihood to take part in discussions. Finally, Zhang et al. (2021) found that extrovert in-
dividuals are more likely to post thoughts about current events or politics on social media.
Accordingly, we expect that extroverted citizens will engage in political discussions more
frequently. In a more formal hypothesis:
Personality and Political Participation 5
H2: Extraversion is positively related to political discussion.
Political Discussion and Participation
Political discussion has always been at the heart of democracy (Delli Carpini, Cook, and
Jacobs, 2004). According to Schmitt-Beck, political discussions are episodes of political
conversations “that take place between the non-elite members of a political community”
(2008:341). A growing score of studies have theorized about the different mechanisms
that account for political discussion, both online and offline (Valenzuela, Arriagada, and
Scherman, 2012). Traditional offline measures include citizens’ discussions with acquain-
tances, friends or family, while new digital technologies and social media platforms enable
new opportunities to engage in political conversations between people with strong or weak
social ties (Boulianne, 2018).
The reason why deliberative democratic theories consider citizens’ political discussions
important is because they ponder citizens as rational agents who engage in purposive delib-
erations aiming at civically communicating with each other (Fishkin, 1995). This purpo-
sive and functional orientation toward civic discussions is generally driven by the desire of
exchanging opinions and information with others (Guerrero, Andersen, and Afifi, 2010).
In the political realm, the different interpersonal mechanisms for citizens’ communication
foster political discussions and public deliberations about social reality, triggering citizens
interest and knowledge about public affairs and politics (Eveland and Hively, 2009).
Prior research has focused on examining the potential role of political discussion in en-
gendering an informed and participatory citizenship (Chan, 2016). As a result, a growing
number of scholars have focused, and provided strong empirical evidence for the con-
nection between political discussion and political participation, especially on the online
realm, where social media platforms became crucial avenues for civic and political engage-
ment (Holt et al., 2013; Yamamoto and Nah, 2018). For instance, Valenzuela, Arriagada,
and Scherman (2012) examining the relationship between citizens’ discussions and online
political participation found that larger online networks and weak-tie discussion frequency
are positively related to online participation. However, not all forms of political discussion
exert similar effects. According to Lupton and Thornton (2017), exposure to disagreeing
opinions yields a negative association with political participation, while exposure to di-
versity has null effects. Likewise, on social media, discussion disagreement inhibits both
offline and online political participation, while frequency of political discussion partially
mediates this relationship (Lu, Heatherly, and Lee, 2016).
Despite the negative association between discussion disagreement and political partic-
ipation, a number of scholars suggested that political discussions involving citizens who
hold and exchange dissimilar perspectives are beneficial for individuals and society at large
(Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004). Other scholars, however, have suggested that the
digital realm lays out the path for social interactions with like-minded peers (Sunstein,
2007). Despite these specifications, previous work has yielded strong correlational and
experimental demonstrations in relation to the use of social media for interactive com-
munication and participatory behaviors (Shah et al., 2005; Gil de Zúñiga, García, and
McGregor, 2015).
Research has suggested that citizens who engage in political talks and conversations are
prone to mobilize and to be involved in political activities, especially during elections (Shah
et al., 2005). In fact, discussion frequency leads to a more informed and participative cit-
izenship (Holbert et al., 2002). This relation has been justified by information processing
6 Social Science Quarterly
explanations (Eveland, 2004), by which citizens involved in political discussions not only
exchange information “but also interpretative frameworks that help to process that in-
formation” (Valenzuela, 2013:924). This means that by discussing about politics, citizens
elaborate about the information and arguments exchanged and problematize the opinions
and counterarguments of such discussions (Eveland, 2004). In addition, higher political
discussions increase citizens’ knowledge about public affair and politics, increasing their
interest and thus their likelihood of participating on certain political activities (Gallego
and Oberski, 2012). Accordingly, we expect that political discussions will positively af-
fect citizens’ political participation, regardless of the nature (individual/collective) of such
political activities. Thus, we hypothesize:
H3: Political discussion is positively related to (a) collective and (b) individual forms of
political participation.
Indirect Effect of Extraversion on Participation: Political Discussion as Mediator
Despite the fact extant empirical research has yielded robust findings over the effects of
personality traits on political behavior (Dawkins, 2017; Gerber et al., 2011b), less atten-
tion has been paid to identifying the underlying mechanisms by which personality may
indirectly exert influence on participation. Indeed, recent research explicitly calls for stud-
ies that explore indirect effects of personality traits on political participation (Weinschenk,
2017). This study provides a grounded theoretical account to explain how extraversion
relates to political participation through political discussion.
A growing number of studies have focused on examining the indirect effects of per-
sonality traits on participation. For instance, Vecchione and Caprara (2009) found that
political efficacy positively mediates the relationship between personality traits (including
extraversion) and political participation. Likewise, Blais and St-Vicent (2011.) analyzing
the effects of specific personality traits (i.e., altruism, shyness, efficacy and conflict avoid-
ance) on voter turnout found that political interest and civic duty mediates the relation-
ship between altruism/efficacy and voter turnout. The formal theoretical explanation is
based on the assumption that personality is developed at the early age and therefore is
typically more constant and stable than attitudes toward politics (Gallego and Oberski,
2012), a determinant antecedent of political behavior (Evans and Stoker, 2016). Personal-
ity traits shape citizens behavioral and cognitive responses of their daily situations, which
fundamentally impact their acquisition of political attitudes (Gallego and Oberski, 2012).
Political attitudes are in fact formed as citizens are exposed to political information or in-
terpretations about public affairs (Eveland, 2004; Kim et al., 2018). For instance, when
citizens watch a political TV program, read a newspaper or discuss politics with friends or
acquaintances, their interest about a particular issue may increase or decrease according to
their perceptual, cognitive, emotional or behavioral responses (Gil de Zúñiga, Diehl, and
Ardèvol-Abreu, 2018). Through all these mechanisms citizens form and develop a par-
ticular political attitude, which is also subject to change virtue of further exposition and
cognitive elaboration on political talks, conversations, or readings. As a result, the effect of
personality traits on political outcomes (attitudes and behaviors) is fundamentally medi-
ated (Mondak et al., 2010) by individual or contextual factors. We argue that one of such
individual factor is political discussion.
As stated, resource theory (Brady, Verba, and Schlozman, 1995) explains that citizens
need a number of resources for participate in politics - including time, money, and civic
skills. Extroverts are typically described as enthusiastic, sociable, embedded in large social
Personality and Political Participation 7
TABLE 1
Descriptive and Reliability Statistics for Collective Political Activities and Individual Political
Activities
Collective
Activities
Spearman–
Brown
Coefficient
Individual
Activities
Cronbach’s
alpha
Country NM(SD)ρM(SD)α
Brazil 1,086 2.29(1.67) 0.91 3.48(1.14) 0.71
South Korea 944 1.58(1.18) 0.93 2.95(1.07) 0.71
Russia 1,145 1.68(1.22) 0.88 2.73(1.08) 0.73
United Kingdom 1,064 1.50(1.11) 0.88 3.01(1.08) 0.69
United States 1,161 1.55(1.16) 0.87 3.15(1.17) 0.73
Total 5,400 1.73(1.32) 0.90 3.07(1.14) 0.72
networks and therefore with a high number of friendships (Ha, Kim, and Jo, 2013; Dynes,
Hassell, and Miles, 2019). They also enjoy the interaction with others and are more prone
to participate in group-oriented political activities (Mondak and Halperin, 2008; Gallego
and Oberski, 2012). Due to the open and sociable character of extroverts, they may dis-
cuss more about politics that introverts, both offline and online. Such political discussions
foster their interpretative repertoires, enabling them to process such informational stim-
uli and increasing their likelihood of engaging in political activities as a result. Moreover,
the frequent discussions and exchanges of information may also increase their chances to
participate in political activities, both individual and collective. Accordingly, we formulate
the following hypothesis:
H4: The relationship between extraversion and (a) collective and (b) individual political
activities is positively mediated through political discussion.
Method
Sample and Data
This study is part of an international project (“World Digital Influence”) where other
papers have been published (Author, 2017, 2018). Following the aim of this study to in-
vestigate the impact of personality on political behavior from a cross-national perspective,
we used data collected in Brazil, Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States (see
Table 1). By selecting countries from different continents, this study not only seeks to over-
come the Western bias in communication research (Hanitzsch, 2019), but also to take into
account countries with varying political background, media systems, and cultural norms.
The study was fielded online in September 2015. The sample size is 5,400. The online sur-
vey was distributed by Nielsen, which curates a worldwide online panel with more than 10
million potential participants. Stratified quota sampling techniques were applied to build
samples whose demographics closely match those reported by official census agencies in
each country (see Callegaro et al., 2014). Nielsen partners with companies that employ a
combination of panel and probability-based sampling methods. Thus, the limitations of
web-only survey designs are minimized in this case (Bosnjak, Das, and Lynn, 2016). For
more details on the sample and data, see Author (2017).
8 Social Science Quarterly
Measures
Building on Mondak and Halperin (2008), we differentiate between political activities
that include social interaction with others and those that do not.
Collective Political Activities. This variable captures political activities that include
social interaction. We asked respondents how often in the past three months they have
engaged in the following activities (1 =never; 7 =all the time): “attended a political
rally, participated in any demonstrations, protests, or marches”; “participated in groups
that took any local action for social or political reform” (Spearman–Brown coefficient =
0.90, M=1.72, SD =1.32).
Individual Political Activities. This variable encompasses political activities that do
not include interaction with others. We asked respondents about their engagement in the
following activities (1 =never; 7 =all the time): “bought a certain product or service
because of the social or political values of the company”; “boycotted a certain product or
service because of the social or political values of the company”; “posted a political sign,
banner, button or bumper sticker”; “donated money to a campaign or political cause”;
“voted in local or statewide elections”; “voted in national or presidential elections” (Cron-
bach’s alpha =0.72, M=3.07, SD =1.14).
In this study, personality traits were captured by including several instruments used to
measure the Big Five (Costa and McCrae, 1992; Gosling, Rentfrow, and Swann, 2003;
Greaves, Cowie, and Fraser, 2015; John and Srivastava, 1999).
Extraversion. We asked respondents how much they agree or disagree with the follow-
ing statements (1 =strongly disagree; 7 =strongly agree): “like to start conversations,”
“don’t like to speak in front of groups” (recoded), “comfortable introducing themselves to
new people,” “being shy around strangers (recoded),” “talk to a lot of different people at
events,” and “find it difficult to approach to others” (recoded). The six items were averaged
to build the final variable (Cronbachs alpha =0.83, M=4.15, SD =1.30).
Political Discussion. Respondents were asked how often they talk about politics or
public affairs online and offline with “spouse or partner,” “family, relatives, or friends,”
“acquaintances,” and “strangers” (1 =never; 7 =all the time). The eight items (four for
online and four for offline) were averaged to create the final variable (Cronbach’s alpha =
0.89, M=2.78, SD =1.31).
Controls. We control for sociopolitical variables (political knowledge, political inter-
est, political efficacy, strength of political ideology), news use (social media news use and
traditional media news use), personality traits, and demographics.
Political Knowledge
We used three items to measure political knowledge: “Do you happen to know, who is
the current Secretary-General of the United Nations?” “What international organization is
in charge of monitoring the use of nuclear energy throughout the world?” and “You might
have heard some people talking about global warming. In your mind, global warming
is?” For each question, respondents had the choice between five answering options. The
Personality and Political Participation 9
responses were recoded (0 =IncorrectorDontknow,1=Correct). The scores were
added together to create the final variable (M=1.73, SD =0.97, Min. =0, Max. =3).
Political Interest. Two survey items asked respondents how closely they pay attention
to information about “what is going on in politics and public affairs” and “how interested
they are in information about what is going on in politics and public affairs.” The two
scores were averaged to create the final variable (Spearman–Brown coefficient =0.93, M
=4.53, SD =1.50).
Internal Political Efficacy. We asked people how much they agree or disagree with
following statements about public life (1 =strongly disagree, 7 =strongly agree): “People
like me can influence government” and “I consider myself well qualified to participate in
politics.” The two items were averaged to create the final score (Spearman–Brown coeffi-
cient =0.72, M=3.92, SD =1.22).
Strength of Partisanship. We asked respondents to place themselves on the partisan
spectrum in terms of party identification (0 =strongly liberal, 10 =strongly conservative)
on (a) political issues, (b) economic issues, and (c) social issues. These three items were
averaged and then folded in the following way: Scores farther away from the midpoint (5)
took higher values and those closer to the midpoint took smaller values (Cronbach’s alpha
=0.91, M=2.83, SD =1.54).
Social Media News Use. Based on prior research (Gil de Zúñiga, Molyneux, and
Zheng, 2014; Valenzuela, Arriagada, and Scherman, 2012), four questionnaire items asked
how often respondents use social media to “get news,” “stay informed about current events
and public affairs,” “get news about their local communities,” and “get news about cur-
rent events from mainstream media (e.g., professional news services)”. These four items,
which were measured on 7-point scales (1 =never, 7 =all the time), form a reliable scale
(Cronbachs alpha =0.89, M=3.98, SD =1.67).
Traditional News Use. Three items measured on seven-point scales (1 =never, 7 =all
the time) asked respondents how often they get news from “television news (cable or local
network news),” “printed newspapers,” and “radio” (Cronbach’s alpha =0.60, M=4.43,
SD =1.36).
Agreeableness. Respondents were asked how much they “sympathize with others’ feel-
ings,” “whether or not they feel little concern for others (recoded),” “to what extend they
are indifferent to others’ feelings (recoded),” if they “love children,” if they “try their best
to comfort others,” and if they “find it tiresome when others ask for help (recoded)” (Cron-
bach’s alpha =0.75, M=5.11, SD =1.02).
Conscientiousness. We asked whether respondents “get chores done right away,” “if
they don’t like to pay attention to detail (recoded),” “if they like order,” “to what extend
they do things according to a plan,” if they “are always prepared,” if they “like making
plans and stick to it” (Cronbach’s alpha =0.74, M=4.82, SD =0.96).
Emotional Stability. We asked respondents whether they “have frequent mood swings
(recoded),” “get upset easily (recoded),” “are obsessed over problems (recoded),” “rarely
10 Social Science Quarterly
get irritated,” “don’t get upset when problems arise,” and “are calm most of the time”
(Cronbach’s alpha =0.75, M=4.28, SD =1.09).
Openness to New Experiences. We used the following items to assess openness: “having
difficulty imagining things (recoded),” “not being interested in new ideas (recoded),” “do
not like to try new things (recoded),” “being full of ideas,” “taking a long time to learn
anything new (recoded),” and “being quick to understand” (Cronbach’s alpha =0.71, M
=4.99, SD =0.99).
Demographics. We control for the following demographic variables: age (M=42.77,
SD =15.41), gender (52.5 percent female), education (measured on an 8-point scale
where 1 =none and 7 =postgraduate degree; M=3.98, SD =1.11), income (annual
household income, M=2.92, SD =1.1), and ethnic or race (86 percent majority).
Results
The aim of this study is to test the relationship between extraversion and two different
forms of political participation: engaging in collective activities (i.e., activities that include
social interaction) versus engaging in individual activities (i.e., activities that do not include
social interaction). Before testing our hypotheses, we provide an overview of descriptive
statistics in the five countries analyzed. Table 1 shows that in all five countries, individual
political activities (M=3.07, SD =1.14) such as buying or boycotting, posting a political
banner, donating money to a campaign or political cause, or voting are more common
than engaging in collective activities (M=1.73, SD =1.32) such as attending a political
rally, participating in demonstrations, protests, or marches, or participated in groups that
took any local action for social or political reform. Moreover, findings in Table 1 indicate
that Brazil is the country showing the highest level of collective political activities (M=
2.29, SD =1.67), and United Kingdom the one with the lowest level (M=1.55, SD =
1.16). When it comes to individual political activities, again Brazil is the country with the
highest score (M=3.48); the lowest score is shown in Russia (M=2.73; SD =1.08).
Next, we tested our hypotheses. H1 dealt with the association between extraversion and
collective political activities. Results in Table 2 show that extraversion is positively related
to collective political activities in three out of five countries: Brazil (ß =0.088, p<0.05),
Korea (ß =0.097, p<0.05), and Russia (ß =0.074, p<0.05). That is, in these three
countries extraverted citizens tend to engage in political activities that include social inter-
action more often than people scoring low on this trait. Hence, our data provide support
for H1 in three countries. In the other two countries—in the United States and United
Kingdom—we found no significant relationship between extraversion and collective po-
litical activities. That is, in these countries extraverts are not more likely to engage in
collective political activities. Thus, H1 is only partly confirmed.
RQ1 asked if extraversion is related to individual political activities. Results in Table 2
reveal no significant association between extraversion and engaging in individual political
activities in any of the five countries: Brazil (ß =0.028, n.s.), Korea (ß =−0.002, n.s),
Russia (ß =0.028, n.s.), United Kingdom (ß =−0.024, n.s.), and United States (ß =
0.050, n.s.). H2 assumed a positive relationship between extraversion and political discus-
sion. As Table 3 shows, our data provide support for H2 in all five countries: Brazil (ß =
0.145, p<0.001), Korea (ß =0.154, p<0.001), Russia (ß =0.099, p<0.001), United
Kingdom (ß =0.157, p<0.001), and US (ß =0.125, p<0.001).
Personality and Political Participation 11
TABLE 2
Political Discussion and Extraversion Predicting Political Participation
Brazil Korea Russia United Kingdom United States
COL IDV COL IDV COL IDV COL IDV COL IDV
Block 1: demographics
Age 0.125∗∗∗ 0.027 0.119∗∗ 0.007 0.134∗∗∗ 0.0680.129∗∗∗ 0.0780.139∗∗∗ 0.110∗∗∗
Gender (female =1) 0.025 0.031 0.047 0.032 0.0650.017 0.0780.003 0.021 0.046
Education 0.038 0.103∗∗ 0.022 0.029 0.006 0.006 0.040 0.023 0.050 0.127∗∗∗
Income 0.024 0.103∗∗ 0.036 0.0780.006 0.007 0.0122 0.007 0.006 0.027
Race (majority =1) 0.049 0.014 0.008 0.023 0.017 0.036 0.016 0.032 0.038 0.069∗∗
R25.5% 8.2% 1.1% 6.4% 3.5% 1.6% 8.6% 3.1% 5.6% 11.8%
Block 2: political antecedents
Political knowledge 0.029 0.027 0.045 0.028 0.061 0.031 0.0770.058 0.046 0.037
Political interest 0.025 0.052 0.101∗∗ 0.220∗∗∗ 0.010 0.050 0.008 0.213 0.036 0.224∗∗∗
Political efficacy 0.029 0.049 0.013 0.122∗∗∗ 0.154∗∗∗ 0.227∗∗∗ 0.112∗∗∗ 0.109∗∗∗ 0.115∗∗∗ 0.107∗∗∗
Strength of partisanship 0.028 0.040 0.016 0.0620.054 0.088∗∗∗ 0.010 0.060 0.053 0.129∗∗∗
R24.7% 7.0% 8.3% 19.3% 8.5% 17.5% 5.9% 18.5% 8.5% 25.4%
Block 3: news use
Social media news use 0.037 0.041 0.104∗∗ 0.042 0.057 0.0650.126∗∗∗ 0.053 0.026 0.042
Traditional news use 0.022 0.016 0.0860.0800.030 0.0690.001 0.016 0.0760.029
R22.6% 1.6% 6.7% 3.3% 2.6% 3.3% 5.5% 2.1% 2.8% 1.9%
Block 4: personality traits
(controls)
Agreeableness 0.105∗∗ 0.069 0.174∗∗∗ 0.092∗∗ 0.0700.044 0.0710.051 0.114∗∗∗ 0.083∗∗
Conscientiousness 0.052 0.009 0.019 0.001 0.029 0.036 0.031 0.084∗∗ 0.017 0.018
Emotional stability 0.016 0.039 0.0850.053 0.019 0.007 0.023 0.001 0.049 0.003
Openness 0.140∗∗ 0.0950.127∗∗∗ 0.020 0.169∗∗∗ 0.132∗∗∗ 0.150∗∗∗ 0.054 0.126∗∗∗ 0.032
R24.7% 2.3% 4.8% 1.4% 3.9% 1.9% 2.8% 1.7% 3.7% 0.9%
Block 5: variables of interest
Political discussion 0.503∗∗ 0.405∗∗∗ 0.386∗∗∗ 0.338∗∗∗ 0.375∗∗∗ 0.319∗∗∗ 0.394∗∗∗ 0.340∗∗∗ 0.407∗∗∗ 0.308∗∗∗
Extraversion 0.0880.028 0.0970.002 0.0740.028 0.052 0.024 0.029 0.050
R217.1% 10.4% 11.9% 8.1% 10.1% 6.9% 10.4% 7.2% 10.1% 6.1%
Total R234.6% 29.6% 32.7% 38.5% 28.6% 31.2% 33.2% 32.6% 30.6% 46.1%
Note: Cell entries are final-entry ordinary least squares (OLS) standardized coefficients (β).
p<0.05
∗∗p<0.01
∗∗∗p<0.001.
12 Social Science Quarterly
TABLE 3
Extraversion Predicting Political Discussion
Brazil Korea Russia
United
Kingdom
United
States
Block 1: demographics
Age 0.051 0.046 0.082∗∗ 0.125∗∗∗ 0.098∗∗
Gender (female =1) 0.13 0.053 0.016 0.0730.002
Education 0.098∗∗∗ 0.030 0.004 0.006 0.004
Income 0.093∗∗ 0.048 0.030 0.088∗∗ 0.049
Race (majority =1) 0.004 0.029 0.016 0.003 0.005
R27.6% 5.1% 2.0% 8.3% 4.3%
Block 2: political antecedents
Political knowledge 0.007 0.034 0.034 0.0660.029
Political interest 0.315∗∗∗ 0.235∗∗∗ 0.317∗∗∗ 0.322∗∗∗ 0.367∗∗∗
Political efficacy 0.102∗∗∗ 0.054 0.136∗∗∗ 0.0770.074
Strength of partisanship 0.076∗∗ 0.010 0.082∗∗ 0.049 0.113∗∗∗
R222.2% 14.1% 24.1% 18.5% 27.2%
Block 3: news use
Social media news use 0.222∗∗∗ 0.236∗∗∗ 0.243∗∗∗ 0.282∗∗∗ 0.308∗∗∗
Traditional news use 0.096∗∗ 0.140∗∗∗ 0.0690.082∗∗ 0.052
R27.5% 9.2% 7.3% 9.0% 9.0%
Block 4: personality traits
(Controls)
Agreeableness 0.002 0.0860.028 0.043 0.016
Conscientiousness 0.006 0.039 0.040 0.037 0.028
Emotional stability 0.002 0.023 0.0700.0820.013
Openness 0.134∗∗∗ 0.0970.081∗∗ 0.0700.072
R20.7% 0.7% 0.6% 0.6% 0.2%
Block 5: variable of interest
Extraversion 0.145∗∗∗ 0.154∗∗∗ 0.099∗∗∗ 0.157∗∗∗ 0.125∗∗∗
R21.5% 1.4% 0.7% 1.6% 1.1%
Total R239.4% 30.5% 34.8% 38.0% 41.9%
Note: Cell entries are final-entry ordinary least squares (OLS) standardized coefficients (β)
p<0.05
∗∗p<0.01
∗∗∗p<0.001.
Next, we expected political discussion to be positively related to both forms of political
participation (H3). Results in Table 2 reveal a positive association between political dis-
cussion and collective political activities in all five countries—supporting H3a: Brazil (ß =
0.503, p<0.001), Korea (ß =0.386, p<0.001), Russia (ß =0.375, p<0.001), United
Kingdom (ß =0.394, p<0.001), and United States (ß =0.407, p<0.001). Results
in Table 2 also provide support for H3b stating a positive association between political
discussion and individual political activities in all five countries: Brazil (ß =0.405, p<
0.001), Korea (ß =0.338, p<0.001), Russia (ß =0.319, p<0.001), United Kingdom
=0.340, p<0.001), and United States (ß =0.308, p<0.001).
Before moving to the final step of analysis, the mediation analysis, we give an overview
of important predictors beyond the variables of interest in Tables 2 and 3. Demograph-
ics are not the best predictors of political participation and political discussion; the only
demographic variable that is associated with political participation in all five countries is
age. Table 2 shows that younger people are more likely to engage in collective political
activities in all five countries: Brazil (ß =−0.125, p<0.001), Korea (ß =−0.119, p<
0.001), Russia (ß =−0.134, p<0.001), United Kingdom (ß =−0.129, p<0.001), and
Personality and Political Participation 13
TABLE 4
Indirect Effect Tests of Extraversion over Collective Political Activities via Political Discussion
Country Indirect Effects
Point
Estimate
95% Confidence
Interval
Brazil Extraversion Political Discussion
Collective Political Activities
0.098 0.0547–0.1438∗∗∗
Korea Extraversion Political Discussion
Collective Political Activities
0.066 0.0331–0.1032∗∗∗
Russia Extraversion Political Discussion
Collective Political Activities
0.038 0.0155–0.0623∗∗∗
United
King-
dom
Extraversion Political Discussion
Collective Political Activities
0.047 0.0253–0.0726∗∗∗
United
States
Extraversion Political Discussion
Collective Political Activities
0.043 0.0217–0.0657∗∗∗
NOTE: The table reports unstandardized coefficients. Indirect effect based on bootstrapping to 5,000 sam-
ples with biased corrected confidence intervals. The effect of demographic variables (age, gender, educa-
tion, income, race), political antecedents (political knowledge, political interest, political efficacy, strength
of partisanship), media use (social media news use, traditional news use), and personality traits (agree-
ableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness to new experiences) were included as control
variables. NBrazil =818; NKorea =749; NRussia =1,006; NUK =836; NUS =958.
United States (ß =−0.139, p<0.001). For individual activities, the picture is less clear:
one country shows a negative relationship (Russia: ß =−0.068, p<0.05), and two coun-
tries a positive relationship (United Kingdom: ß =0.078, p <0.05; US: ß =0.110, p<
0.001). When looking at political antecedents, political interests is a significant predictor
of political discussion in all countries (see Table 3).
Also, news use matters—especially social media news use is a consistent predictor of po-
litical discussion in all five countries. Interestingly, traditional news use (TV, radio, newspa-
pers) matters in all countries except the United States. Finally, when it comes to personality
traits, openness to new experiences is a significant predictor of collective political activities
(Table 2) and political discussion in all five countries.
Finally, we were interested to investigate the mediating effect of political discussion over
the relationship between extraversion and collective and individual political activities (H4).
Results from mediation analysis show that the positive relationship between extraversion
and collective political activities is partially mediated by political discussion in Brazil, Ko-
rea, and Russia and fully mediated in United Kingdom and United States (H4a; see Ta-
ble 4). That is, extroverted people tend to discuss politics more which, in turn, fosters their
engagement in collective political activities.
Results in Table 5 indicate that political discussion fully mediates the relationship be-
tween extraversion and individual political activities in all five countries (H4b). That is,
while there is no direct association between extraversion and individual political activities,
there is an indirect one through political discussion. Thus, H4a and H4b were empirically
supported.
Discussion
Prior research has underscored the importance of individual level characteristics in
predicting a thriving and politically active democracy. Demographic variables (e.g., age,
14 Social Science Quarterly
TABLE 5
Indirect Effect Tests of Extraversion over Individual Political Activities via Political Discussion
Country Indirect Effects
Point
Estimate
95% Confidence
Interval
Brazil Extraversion Political Discussion
Individual Political Activities
0.054 0.0295–0.0802∗∗∗
Korea Extraversion Political Discussion
Individual Political Activities
0.051 0.0255–0.0800∗∗∗
Russia Extraversion Political Discussion
Individual Political Activities
0.025 0.0111–0.0476∗∗∗
United
Kingdom
Extraversion Political Discussion
Individual Political Activities
0.039 0.0210–0.0591∗∗∗
United States Extraversion Political Discussion
Individual Political Activities
0.033 0.0176–0.0489∗∗∗
NOTE: The table reports unstandardized coefficients. Indirect effect based on bootstrapping to 5,000 sam-
ples with biased corrected confidence intervals. The effect of demographic variables (age, gender, educa-
tion, income, race), political antecedents (political knowledge, political interest, political efficacy, strength
of partisanship), media use (social media news use, traditional news use), and personality traits (agree-
ableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness to new experiences) were included as control
variables. NBrazil =818; NKorea =749; NRussia =1,006; NUK =836; NUS =958.
gender, income), sociopolitical antecedents (e.g., political efficacy, knowledge, trust), and
communicative practices (e.g., news use, political discussion) have all been linked as
explanatory antecedents to political participation (Beauregard, 2014; Kittilson, 2016;
Schlozman et al., 1995; Zukin et al., 2006; Potochnick and Stegmaier, 2020; Gil de Zúñiga
et al., 2019). Considerably less explored, however, remains the role of individuals’ person-
ality traits and its political discussion and participatory implications in a cross-cultural con-
text. Drawing upon representative survey data from five countries worldwide, this study
attempts to modestly palliate this gap.
Results of the study showed that people’s personality traits directly relate to political
discussion, and directly and indirectly to political participation. Specifically, extraversion
is positively related to collective forms of political participation that include higher levels
of social interaction in three different countries: Brazil, Korea, and Russia. Yet, it was
not statistically associated with individual forms of political participation at all. Hence,
the results lend support to the notion that social features of political activities actually
matter. For instance, extroverts are more likely to engage in political activities that include
social engagement with others, including discussing relevant issues about public affairs
and currents events. This is also significant because discussion is a consistent precursor
of political behavior, whether collective or individual (Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs,
2004). Individual personality traits are linked to both types of political participation across
all five countries of the study through the means of political discussion. That is, extroverted
people tend to discuss more politics, which in turn, positively predicts both collective and
individual political activities.
These results point toward three main theoretical contributions: First, it shows that
Mondak and Halperin, 2008) approach to theoretically distinguishing between different
forms of political activities (i.e., individual or collective ones) is a fruitful one. As our find-
ings indicate, extroverts are more likely to engage in group-based political activities in three
out of the five countries under scrutiny, suggesting that the relationship between extraver-
sion and collective forms of political participation is context-driven and thus dependent on
the country of exploration. More specifically, while in Brazil, Korea, and Russia we found
Personality and Political Participation 15
a positive direct relationship, for the United States and United Kingdom this positive rela-
tionship only was established once introducing political discussion as mediator. Different
levels of democracy, political culture, institutional context, and Internet penetration might
play a role here. For instance, in countries where social media platforms have been found
to be of high relevance for mobilizing people to engage in collective activities such as par-
ticipating in protests (Valenzuela, Bachmann, and Bargsted, 2019), extroverts might have
higher chances to get mobilized than in countries where social media are less relevant.
Further research is needed to explain these country differences; especially multilevel medi-
ating analysis examining how these type of mechanisms function between individual level
variables and macro variables (Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2019).
Second, our study highlights the vital role of political discussion in explaining and fos-
tering pro-social democratic behaviors. Indeed, political discussion was the strongest and
most consistent predictor in explaining the two forms of political participation, individ-
ual, and collective, across different countries. The key role of political discussion has been
previously identified in mediating political participatory processes in other contexts such
as cognitive reflection and elaboration (e.g., Chen, 2019, Yoo and Gil De Zúñiga, 2019).
Personality traits may also contribute to cast a strong light on this type of communication
mediation models. Additional research is needed to better understand this connection.
Extroverts may not only be inclined to discuss politics more frequently but also those con-
versations may contain different attributes when compared to more introverted people.
For instance, future research should consider the implications for like-minded and cross-
cutting talk (Cargnino and Neubaum, 2021; Barnidge, Ardèvol-Abreu, and Gil de Zúñiga,
2018), or between political conversations maintained with strong and weak ties (Lu and
Lee, 2021). In this vein, this study also neglected to look deeper into the mediating mecha-
nism by distinguishing between online and offline forms of political discussion (Liu, 2019;
Yamamoto and Nah, 2018). We belief these are all fruitful and worthwhile lines of inquiry
for the future.
Third, our findings emphasize that research on personality traits and political behavior
should not be restricted on testing direct relationships, but rather aim at exploring indirect
pathways (Weinschenk, 2017). Otherwise, relevant mechanisms at play might remain un-
detected. In our case, we found that political discussion is a strong mediating mechanism
to account for the relationship between extraversion and both forms of political participa-
tion (individual and collective). Therefore, despite the fact that extraversion exert a positive
or nonsignificant influence on forms of political participation depending on the country
of scrutiny, when introducing political discussion as a mediator, such relationship turned
positive in all five countries. Future studies should further this line of research and include
additional variables as mediators in the model, such as political efficacy (Vecchione and
Caprara, 2009) or political interest (Wang, Weng, and Tsai, 2019).
As revealing as these findings are, this study does not come without limitations. The
study develops a sound cross-cultural theoretical testing, but it relies on cross-sectional
data and, therefore, it does not strictly allow for causal inferences. Likewise, our study dis-
tinguished between collective and individual political activities, but we do not differentiate
online and offline activities. Further studies investigating the relationship between person-
ality traits and political behavior should specifically look at online and offline individual
and collective political activities, given that introverts might show different behavior online
and offline (McKenna and Bargh, 2000; Kim, Hsu, and Gil de Zúñiga, 2013). Similarly,
future studies should also consider rapidly changing ways of discussing politics on a wide
array of social media platforms, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to newer platforms,
16 Social Science Quarterly
such as Telegram or TikTok. These platforms are gaining traction and becoming more
relevant for political discussion – especially for younger citizens.
Despite these limitations, our results provide important insights into the relationship be-
tween personality and political participation by linking extraversion to political activities
that include social interaction such as partaking on political marches, protest, or attending
group political meetings, versus political activities that are performed alone such as donat-
ing money to a political campaign, or voting. Hence, the findings of this study highlight
the needs to not only investigate direct but also have a closer look at indirect mechanisms
that help explaining the complex relationship between personality traits and political be-
havior. By delivering important insights into the relationship between extraversion and
different forms of political participation across cultures, this study provides a solid basis
for future studies interested in the psychology of political behavior.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported by the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Develop-
ment (Grant FA2386-15-1-0003). Responsibility for the information and views set out in
this study lies entirely with the authors.
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... Discussing politics is a core tenet of deliberative democracies, whereby individuals form their opinions and participate in political processes (Huber, Goyanes, & Gil de Zúñiga, 2021;Kim, Wyatt, & Katz, 1999). In the online realm, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter enable users to post about current events and politics everywhere and in real time while also discussing the same with various individuals that they may or may not know (Gil de Zúñiga, Molyneux, & Zheng, 2014;Scheffauer, Goyanes, & Gil de Zúñiga, 2021). ...
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