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Personality Politics

In BBC Radio 4's 'Personality Politics' James Tilley, Professor of Politics, investigates how our personalities shape our political preferences.

Could understanding how our personalities predispose us to certain ideologies, values and policies, help us view rising polarisation and political differences from a fresh perspective? 

Talking to a range of leading academics, James delves into the 'the big five' personality types—openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism—as well as the 'dark triad' of Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy, to see what political trends and tendencies can be observed.

From hardwired biological impulses on questions of defence and resource allocation, to a predominance of certain personality types to support new ideas or seek a seat of power, James demonstrates a variety of ways that our personality might possibly influence our political views and participation.

However, he asserts, there are some important caveats to the idea that biology equals ideology:

"First off, these are simply tendencies. My genetic make-up does not determine my personality or my political views; it just influences them. Second, this is about people's attitudes, not their votes. There is no biological imperative to support party X over party Y.

"Nonetheless, we should probably take seriously the idea that our political attitudes are partially due to our personality or other innate tendencies that we cannot do much about."


 This work is a continuation of James' research into identity, public opinion and voting-behaviour. In the past, he has worked with the BBC to discuss topics such as emotion in politicsconspiracy theories and changing the UK’s voting age.

Professor James Tilley is Professor of Politics and Fellow of Jesus College