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Why Do They Run? The Psychological Underpinnings of Political Ambition

  • Julie Blais (a1), Scott Pruysers (a2) and Philip G. Chen (a3)


What drives individuals toward a career in politics? Prior research on political ambition has often focused on socio-demographic variables while generally ignoring the importance of individual personality differences. Yet personality consistently predicts political knowledge, interest and participation, suggesting that individual differences may matter in addition to resources and the social environment. To this end, we assess the impact of both the HEXACO and Dark Triad models of personality in predicting nascent political ambition (that is, the initial desire to run for elected office) while controlling for well-established socio-demographic variables (for example, gender, income). Overall, we find considerable support for the predictive power of personality, especially the traits of honesty-humility, extraversion and narcissism. These results have important implications for understanding the kinds of people who are interested in a political career.

Qu'est-ce qui incite certaines personnes à se lancer en politique ? La recherche sur l'ambition politique s'est souvent concentrée sur les variables sociodémographiques tout en ignorant généralement l'importance des différences de personnalité individuelles. Pourtant, la personnalité prédit de façon constante les connaissances, l'intérêt et la participation politiques, ce qui suggère qu'au-delà des ressources et de l'environnement social, les différences individuelles peuvent avoir de l'importance. À cette fin, nous évaluons l'incidence des modèles de personnalité « HEXACO » et « Dark Triad » sur la prédiction de l'ambition politique naissante (c.-à-d. le désir initial de se présenter aux élections) tout en tenant compte de variables sociodémographiques bien établies (par ex., genre, revenu). Dans l'ensemble, nous trouvons un soutien considérable au pouvoir prédictif de la personnalité, en particulier les traits d'honnêteté-humilité, d'extraversion et de narcissisme. Ces résultats ont d'importantes répercussions sur la compréhension des types de personnes qui s'intéressent à une carrière politique.


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This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by Carleton University.



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Why Do They Run? The Psychological Underpinnings of Political Ambition

  • Julie Blais (a1), Scott Pruysers (a2) and Philip G. Chen (a3)


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