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Personality of voters and leaders

Some of the findings of my research on the personality of voters and political leaders are:

  • The Dark Triad is associated in candidates with more negative campaigns and the use of fear appeals (ref)(ref)

  • Voters scoring high on populist attitudes tend to like candidates with darker personality profiles (high Dark Triad, low agreeableness) (ref)

  • High conscientiousness (and psychopathy) in candidates seem associated with better electoral results, whereas extraversion could be counterproductive (ref)

  • Voters dislike “dark” politicians in general; yet, voters that themselves score higher on “dark” personality traits (narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism) tend to like dark candidates, in such a way that the detrimental effect observed in general is completely reversed for them (ref)

  • Negative campaigning is more effective for voters scoring high on psychopathy (ref)

  • Populists score lower on agreeableness, emotional stability and conscientiousness than mainstream candidates, but higher on extraversion, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism (ref)

  • Donald Trump has an "off-the-charts" personality profile: very high extraversion and Dark Triad traits (narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism), and very low agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability (ref)(ref)(ref)

  • Candidates high in agreeableness and openness tend to be associated with campaigns that are less negative and harsh, but more based on positively valenced appeals (ref)

  • Authoritarian candidates tend to score lower on agreeableness and emotional stability, (marginally) higher on extraversion, and higher on the Dark Triad (ref


Nai. A. (2021). Populist voters like dark politicians. Personality and Individual Differences. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2021.111412

Nai, A., Maier, J., & Vranic, J. (2021). Personality goes a long way (for some). An experimental investigation into candidate personality traits, voters’ profile, and perceived likeability. Frontiers in Political Science (forthcoming).


Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2020). Teflon Trump? Shifting public perceptions of Donald Trump’s personality traits across four studies over eighteen months. International Journal of Public Opinion Research. doi: 10.1093/ijpor/edaa030


Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2020). Dark necessities? Candidates’ aversive personality traits and negative campaigning in the 2018 American Midterms. Electoral Studies. doi: 10.1016/j.electstud.2020.102233

​Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2020). Is negative campaigning a matter of taste? Political attacks, incivility, and the moderating role of individual differences. American Politics Research. doi: 10.1177/1532673X20965548

Nai, A., & Otto, L. (2020). When they go low, we gloat. How trait and state Schadenfreude moderate the perception and effect of negative political messages. Journal of Media Psychology. doi: 10.1027/1864-1105/a000283

Nai, A., & Toros, E. (2020). The peculiar personality of strongmen: Big Five and Dark Triad traits of political leaders worldwidePolitical Research Exchange, 2(1): 1-24.

Nai, A. (2019). The electoral success of angels and demons. Big Five, Dark Triad, and Performance at the Ballot Box. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 7(2), 830–862.


Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2019). Can anyone be objective about Donald Trump? Assessing the personality of political figuresJournal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties. doi: 10.1080/17457289.2019.1632318

Nai, A., and Martinez i Coma, F. (2019). The personality of populists: Provocateurs, charismatic leaders, or drunken dinner guests? West European Politics, 42(7), 1337-1367.

Nai, A., Martinez i Coma, F., and Maier, J. (2018). 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), 609–643.

Nai, A. (2018). Disagreeable narcissists, extroverted psychopaths, and elections: A new dataset to measure the personality of candidates worldwide. European Political Science, 18(2), 309–334.

Nai, A., and Maier, J. (2018). Perceived personality and campaign style of Hillary Clinton and Donald TrumpPersonality and Individual Differences, 121: 80-83.

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