American Political Science Review

Research Article

Personality and Civic Engagement: An Integrative Framework for the Study of Trait Effects on Political Behavior


a1 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

a2 Vanderbilt University

a3 University of Tampa


People's enduring psychological tendencies are reflected in their traits. Contemporary research on personality establishes that traits are rooted largely in biology, and that the central aspects of personality can be captured in frameworks, or taxonomies, focused on five trait dimensions: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. In this article, we integrate a five-factor view of trait structure within a holistic model of the antecedents of political behavior, one that accounts not only for personality, but also for other factors, including biological and environmental influences. This approach permits attention to the complex processes that likely underlie trait effects, and especially to possible trait–situation interactions. Primary tests of our hypotheses draw on data from a 2006 U.S. survey, with supplemental tests introducing data from Uruguay and Venezuela. Empirical analyses not only provide evidence of the value of research on personality and politics, but also signal some of the hurdles that must be overcome for inquiry in this area to be most fruitful.


c1 Jeffery J. Mondak is James M. Benson Chair in Public Issues and Civic Leadership, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 605 E. Springfield, Champaign, IL 61820 (

c2 Matthew V. Hibbing is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 605 E. Springfield, Champaign, IL 61820 (

c3 Damarys Canache is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 605 E. Springfield, Champaign, IL 61820 (

c4 Mitchell A. Seligson is Centennial Professor of Political Science and Professor of Sociology, Vanderbilt University, Box 1817 Station B, Nashville, TN 37325 (

c5 Mary R. Anderson is Assistant Professor, Department of Government and World Affairs, University of Tampa, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606 (


Data in this article are from the 2006 Congressional Elections Survey (CES) and 2007 Americas Barometer surveys from Uruguay and Venezuela. Funding for the 2006 CES was provided by the Center on Congress, the Center on American Politics, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, all at Indiana University; the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois; and by Edward Carmines, John Hibbing, Robert Huckfeldt, Gary Jacobson, Walter Stone, and Herb Weisberg. Funding for the Uruguay and Venezuela surveys was provided by U.S. Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, Vanderbilt University, the University of Notre Dame, and Brigham Young University. Helpful feedback and advice on this research were provided by Scott Althaus, Ira Carmen, Jason Coronel, Brian Gaines, Karen Halperin, Jude Hays, John Hibbing, Jim Kuklinski, Dona-Gene Mitchell, and Pete Nardulli. We also acknowledge the recommendations offered by five anonymous reviewers. Last, we thank this journal's coeditors for their detailed instruction across multiple iterations of this article, and especially for encouraging us to orient the study of personality and politics within a broader framework regarding the origins of civic engagement.