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Comparative Analysis of Measures in Political Personality Studies

  • 04 Pages
  • Published On: 02-12-2023

The first article chosen for this essay is ‘Donald Trump, Populism, and the Age of Extremes: Comparing the Personality Traits and Campaigning Style of Trump and Other Leaders Worldwide’ (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019). The second article is ‘Nice guys finish last: personality and political success’ (Joly, Soroka, & Loewen, 2019). Both articles are similar in that they are exploring the link between personality traits of political leaders and the election outcomes or election campaign style. The two articles are also based on the similar constructs of Big Five however, the first article also uses Dark Triad to identify independent variables. Both articles use statistical analysis methods. This essay discusses the measures used in the two articles and compares them for their reliability and validity.

The authors of this article raise questions about the possibility of Trump’s political style being representative of similar political style of political leaders in other countries so that this abrasive, provocative, and bombastic style is not peculiar to Trump but is similar to fellow populists in other countries. The article questions whether the personality profile of Trump is extraordinary in terms of use of negativity and emotionality or if common to other populists and if the use of such techniques is associated with the personality profile of the candidate. The overarching research question on this study is whether the candidates’ personality profiles are associated with their use of negativity and emotionality in campaigns (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019, p. 630).


Nai, Coma, and Maier (2019) article is aimed at providing systematic evidence about the personality style of President Donald Trump by assessing it against the five socially benevolent traits (Big Five) and three socially malevolent traits (Dark Triad). The article also seeks to test the assumption whether Trump is unique in his extreme personality compared to other contemporary and populist candidates and to discuss the implications of his extreme personality in context of the harsh and negative campaigning style adopted by him in 2016 election campaign.

Nai, Coma, and Maier (2019) use the concepts of Big Five and Dark Triad, which are concepts related to personality traits. Big Five relates to positive qualities associated with extraversion or the ability to enjoy a sociable and active life and Dark Triad is associated with negative qualities associated with narcissism. While Big Five qualities are associated with qualities like warmth, responsibility, achievement orientation, and dependability, Dark Triad qualities are associated with grandiosity, flamboyant attention seeking, overconfidence and deceit.

Nai, Coma, and Maier (2019) hypothesise that the personality of political is relevant to understanding why some leaders are more successful in attaining election outcomes as non-political characteristics of a candidate come to be central. The authors argue that because personality traits of political leaders are in the public domain, voters may find it appropriate to base their political decision making on this perception of the public figures as they would then have a “perfect yardstick to predict what to expect from a candidate if elected” (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019, p. 611).

The research study on which Nai, Coma, and Maier (2019) article is based assessed Trump’s perceived personality by comparing it with the profile of 103 other candidates and collected novel data of expert ratings by 60 national and international scholars provided ratings of his personality. The independent variables in the study related to the personality traits of Big Five and Dark Triad. These variables are noted in the study as “E: Extraversion; A: Agreeableness; C: Conscientiousness; ES: Emotional Stability; O: Openness; N: Narcissism; P: Psychopathy; and M: Machiavellianism” (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019, p. 624). The dependent variable in this study is the campaign style adopted by the candidate. The independent variable is therefore able to change the dependant variable. In other words, Nai, Coma, and Maier (2019) posit that higher Big Five and lower Dark Triad score would lead to a campaign style that is positive and not based on negative methods like character attacks and fear appeals (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019). The data analysis establishes that Trump scores high on extraversion but low on other Big Five qualities and high on all three Dark Traid qualities which is associated with a more negative form of campaigning.

The second article is ‘Nice guys finish last: personality and political success’ (Joly, Soroka, & Loewen, 2019). Similar to the first article, the second article is also based on exploring a link between personality and the electoral success of politicians. Similar to the first article, the second article also uses the Five-Factor Model personality traits to correlate with political success both during election and in office for Belgian politicians. The research study is correlational in terms of the variables and not causal. The data for this study was collected by using a Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) which was administered to politicians elected to four Belgian parliaments. Based on the data, the researchers explored the correlations between personality traits and the electoral success and links between personality traits and politicians’ longevity. The independent variables in this research are similar to the first research article, which are based on the concept of FFM, or Big Five (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) (Joly, Soroka, & Loewen, 2019). The dependant variable is political success. The authors seek to explore a correlational link between personality and political success with an emphasis on Big Five personality traits.

The measure of success in the research study is the electoral performance based on the absolute number of votes each MP received which allowed the researchers to calculate the percent vote share of each MP vis-à-vis the total votes their party gained per district and how good politicians are at keeping their jobs for which the researchers use the number of consecutive years in office since an MP was first elected. The study found that politicians who are less agreeable and more emotionally stable got more preference votes. Therefore, there was a correlational link between personality and electoral success. The regression model was used to measure the link.

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In terms of reliability and validity, the second research study offers a more viable method. The results of the second study are based on regression data analysis. Regression is considered to have higher validity attached to it because it is usually related to more precise results. The results of the first study are also based on regression data analysis. Therefore, in so far as the results are considered, the second study also offers precise results due to the use of regression analysis. Both studies offer statistical and empirical data and their analysis in statistical tradition. Therefore, in this respect they both offer equal validity. The only difference is the data collection method which makes the second research study more reliable than the first one. In the first study, expert judgments are used to assess the perception of the personality traits of the political leaders, which are considered to be efficient and reliable approach to assess how reputation of candidates is perceived (Nai, Coma, & Maier, 2019). The data are based on ratings of national and international scholars in politics and elections. On the other hand, in the second research, the data are based on the survey with the politicians where questions are asked to them to assess their personality traits (Joly, Soroka, & Loewen, 2019). The researchers use TIPI to assesses respondents’ personality on each of the “Big Five” personality traits based on 2 questions asked to the subjects per trait. The respondents are asked to indicate on a 7-point Likert scale to which degree each statement applies to them. The authors note that although this measure may be somewhat inferior to personality tests like the NEO-PI, it has been employed and validated across numerous countries and different settings (Joly, Soroka, & Loewen, 2019). This can be argued to a more appropriate method of assessing personality because here personality traits can be assessed on the basis of the responses provided by the politicians whereas in the first study, personality traits are assessed on the basis of perception. This is not as reliable in terms of assessing actual personality traits of the politicians as self filled survey instrument and interviews are (as in the second study) because in case of the survey instrument being used to assess the politicians’ personality traits, it would have more success in finding the personality traits of the politicians. In the case of the first study, the authors are working on the basis of perception of personality whereas in the case of the second study, the authors are working on the basis of data provided by the subjects themselves which will have a higher chance of correct personality assessment. Therefore, on the basis of this difference the second study is more reliable. In terms of the measures used in the studies, both studies are using the same or similar measures and independent and dependant variables. To conclude, while both articles are somewhat similar in the way the measures are designed, Joly, Soroka, and Loewen (2019) are able to develop a more reliable study.


Joly, J., Soroka, S., & Loewen, P. (2019). Nice guys finish last: Personality and political success. Acta Politica, 54(4), 667-683.

Nai, A., Coma, F. M., & Maier, J. (2019). Donald Trump, Populism, and the Age of Extremes: Comparing the Personality Traits and Campaigning Style of Trump and Other Leaders Worldwide. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 49(3), 609-64.

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