Election Time Remix: Political Preferences and Personality Traits

The U.S. Presidential election is tomorrow and we are rehashing a post we did a little while back analyzing the relationship between politics and personality.  Using CrowdFlower, we quickly asked 2,000 Americans about their U.S. presidential election voting plans, as well as what psychologists call the Big 5 personality traits—Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion. Then we took the results and pasted them into Statwing (methodology).

There’s a lot of fun questions to explore using this dataset. For example, do folks become agreeable or crotchety as they age? Are cat-lovers more neurotic than dog-lovers? If you really like controversy, try looking at which sex is the more conscientious, men or women?  Try to answer some of these questions here in Statwing, but otherwise here’s some of what we found:

Controversial but Statistically Supported Overstatement #1

Obama voters are more neurotic then Romney voters.

Statwing’s output:

Scores for Neuroticism were on a 1 to 15 scale. The automatically generated histogram visualizations show how many respondents had each Neuroticism score.

This result isn’t just because Obama voters tend to be younger (Neuroticism is linked to youth). When you exclude folks younger than 40 from the analysis, the effect remains.

Controversial but Statistically Supported Overstatement #2

Romney voters are less open then Obama voters.

As in the previous example, Statwing automatically uses a t-test behind the scenes (details)

Turns out scoring relatively low on Openness is reliably associated with planning to vote for Romney.

We’ll end with a hopefully uncontroversial but statistically supported statement.

Hopefully Uncontroversial Statistically Supported Statement #1:

Romney voters tend to be older than Obama voters

Actually maybe this is a little controversial, as there is an old saying that “if you aren’t a Liberal while in your twenties, you have no heart—but if you aren’t a Conservative by forty, you don’t have a brain”.  Make that controversial but statistically supported statement number three.

Anyways, check back for more interesting posts on when you run a survey with CrowdFlower and analyze the results in Statwing.


Technical Notes and Caveats

Our results were consistent with published research, but our process wasn’t publication-quality. For example, we weren’t horribly scientific about calculating who is a “Likely Voter.” There are defined ways of doing so that would have been too time-consuming to use.

Our survey is very biased towards the young Obama voters. But our doublecheck, logistic regression controlling for age, gave similar results to those presented above.

You could debate whether or not it’s appropriate to use parametric statistics for Likert-type scales. But even those who don’t believe its appropriate say it’s “common practice” to do so, so we follow that convention. Regardless, results of nonparametric tests are very similar for the above analyses (which you can see in Statwing by going to the advanced tab of an analysis and selecting “Show/Hide Ranked T-Test Results”).


We surveyed 2,073 folks on Mechanical Turk via CrowdFlower, using a SurveyMonkey survey. CrowdFlower and Mechanical Turk are becoming commonly used tools for academic researchers looking to collect psychological survey data.

We asked each respondent to answer a 15-question survey that is known to reliably type personality traits in large sample sizes. The survey rates each personality trait—Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion—on a 1 to 15 scale.

We also asked respondents whether they would definitely be voting for a major party candidate in 2012. For those who responded “Yes,” we asked which candidate they were planning on voting for, using a 1 (Definitely Obama) to 7 (Definitely Romney) scale. If a respondent responded with a 1 or 2 on that scale and indicated they were definitely planning on voting, then they were labeled as an Obama voter. If a respondent responded with a 6 or 7 on that scale and indicated they were definitely planning on voting, then they were labeled as an Romney voter.

We also asked people if they liked cats or dogs better. Dogs won.

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