Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
The central lesson of the previous chapter is that psychological differences – differences in personality – bring substantial variance to patterns in the acquisition of political information. This point gains significance to the extent that citizens draw on that information when forming opinions about policies, political candidates, elected officials, and political institutions and procedures. In its simplest form, political behavior involves citizen exposure to information about politics and government, the use of that information to provide structure to political attitudes and predispositions, and then introduction of those attitudes and predispositions for tangible acts such as voting in elections, writing letters to the editor of one's local newspaper, or attending PTA meetings. In Chapter 4, multiple relationships between personality and political information have been observed. In Chapter 6, I consider the impact of personality on political participation. To link these two lines of inquiry, my task in this chapter involves exploration of possible connections between the Big Five and what people think and believe regarding various facets of the political world.
Once again, a two-part analytical strategy will be employed to organize and guide attention to personality. In the first section of this chapter, possible direct personality effects are examined broadly. My objective is to identify a representative array of the attitudes and predispositions of interest to students of political behavior, and to assess whether variance in these attitudes and predispositions traces to fundamental psychological differences.