The U.S. Political Personality (II): Voter Involvement

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In our exploration of all things political by way of the personality, we continue the series by digging deeper into who the American voter is, how involved are they in campaigns, and do they vote because of a candidate’s policies or because they have the best chance of winning. If you have missed the first part of this series, “Parties”, you can find it here.

Voting History and Intent

Before we proceed, a quick note regarding some of the charts below. Any figures that include previous voting data are drawn from a subset of respondents that were at least 22 years old at the time of taking this survey. Charts that focus on this election season include all respondents aged 18 or more. And of course, only answers submitted by respondents from the United States were counted.

Let’s start with the Roles. Perhaps surprisingly, Diplomats are the most likely group both to have voted in the past (85%) and to vote again this year (83%). It is usually Sentinels who carry the banner of civic responsibility, but this time they fall behind, even if not by much (81% and 82% respectively). If we take our previous studies into account, it seems that whereas Sentinels tend to be the most active voters overall, Diplomats (and to a lesser extent Analysts) surpass them when the presidency is on the line.

On the other hand, Explorers consistently score lowest in voting-related studies. What might be the reason for this? Without further polling, we can only speculate. Perhaps they see that statistically their one vote is inconsequential by itself. Maybe they decide that political power struggles have minimal impact on their lives and are therefore not worth their attention. Or perhaps there is something about the voting process that feels tiring and mundane to these impatient personalities. It’s hard to say based on this poll alone.

These trends become even clearer if we take a look at the next couple of graphs. One of the survey questions asked whether the respondents intended to vote this time around. Again, Explorers scored lower than the other three Roles, especially in the 18-21 year old group. Interestingly, this particular age group (with the exception of Explorers) seems to be more interested in voting compared to survey participants who have already had a chance to vote in previous presidential elections. Analysts in particular score noticeably higher (+7%), followed by Diplomats and Sentinels (+4%).

Let’s now take a look at individual traits and see what they tell us:

These two charts focus on those who have already seen at least one presidential election. Nothing really interesting here. Intuitive, Feeling, Judging, and Assertive respondents are slightly more likely both to have voted in the past, and to vote this time, but the differences are barely noticeable.

The chart for the 18-21 year old group gives us some food for thought, however:

Intuitive and Judging traits keep their lead, but both Thinking and Turbulent ones score slightly higher than their counterparts. There may be a few reasons for this. More idealistic and novelty-oriented than Observant types, Intuitive first-time voters may see presidential elections as a catalyst for change, being more willing to vote as well. As for the Judging types, it is reasonable to think they would see voting as a civic responsibility. The idea of participating in the orderly transition of power as described by the Constitution might especially resonate with them. With voting, the country has emphatically decided the popular candidate. This speaks to the Judging types’ need for predictability and a sense of closure. There are rules for how this system should work, and voting is part of that.

Now we come to the Strategies. In the 18-21 year old group, Extraverted and Turbulent traits were more highly represented when it came to voting in the near future, although the differences were fairly small. Respondents aged 22 and above had higher turnout across the board compared to the younger group, but the most noticeable spike was in the Confident Individualism Strategy (+9%). Perhaps the combination of Introverted and Assertive traits drives younger Confident Individualists to reject less-than-ideal candidates, thus depressing turnout as well? Our attitudes tend to soften as we mature, and Confident Individualists are no exception – so it may well be that as they prepare to vote in their nth presidential election, they may be more willing to compromise and seek alternatives instead of adopting the “my way or the highway” approach. That is just one of many possible explanations, however. We do not yet have enough data to give a definite one.

Participation on the Front Lines

Fewer than 27% of all respondents in any of the Roles said they spent time at the headquarters of their candidates stuffing envelopes or manning phones. When you think about it, that’s still a respectable representation from those who responded to the question. One out of four or five isn’t bad.

Sentinels were the least likely to be involved in a campaign. Finally. A civic matter in which the Sentinels are not at the head of the class. Or, should we say “oddly.” This duty-bound group scored surprisingly low when it came to going out and working for their candidate when compared to the others.

Is it because Sentinels are lazy or disinterested? There is typically nothing lazy about Sentinels. They are hard-working and dutiful. They aren’t disinterested. If we include non-presidential elections, they tend to vote at a higher percentage than any other Role. So what makes them such avid voters and yet relatively reluctant to work for a candidate?

Perhaps supporting a candidate is seen as something above and beyond the call of duty. While Sentinels dive enthusiastically into what society expects of them (voting), they may not see campaigning as that. From their no-nonsense view, this act may seem like something extra in the landscape of civic responsibility.

It’s also possible it doesn’t feel practical enough. Sentinels may not see being a campaign worker as having a direct impact on them or their families. Are they actually making a difference when they do volunteer, and how would they know? In contrast, they know for sure that voting is one countable tick mark in favor of a candidate. There is much to speculate about here and comments are welcomed.

So, if not Sentinels, then who? The group with the highest percentage involved actively with their candidate’s campaign was, not surprisingly, the Diplomats. Diplomats always look for causes. During an election year, what greater cause is there than getting someone who supports your ideals into the highest office in the land? Unlike the Observant Sentinel, Diplomats may not need things to be quite as measurable or concrete. Feeling like they put in the effort and did their part to push an agenda may well be enough for them without keeping score. Even if they can’t count their personal marbles at the end of the game, they will still feel fulfilled in having played.

Extraverts volunteered for their candidate nearly 10% more than their Introverted counterparts. The obvious reason is that campaigning has a social aspect. Spending time in a crowded room teeming with enthusiastic campaigners would probably be low on most Introverts’ list of “what makes a good time.” The wording of the question alone tells us a lot. The word “actively” is a word most Extraverts would hold near and dear. They like to be in the mix. Introverts, on the other hand, are known to be more reticent and typically don’t get caught up in waves of enthusiasm especially if they are generated by a group.

This is also reflected in the Strategies chart below. The Social Engagement Strategy got the highest score, nearly double the percentage of Confident Individualists, who scored lowest. The combination of social skills and desire for perfection may push Social Engagers to do more in hopes that their favorite candidate will get elected – including active participation in their campaign.

Policy or Winning?

When you go to the polls, are you going because you want to make your stand for some policies, or is it more about making sure the other side loses? To find out what different personalities think, we asked, “Are you planning on voting for your candidate more because of their policies, or because you believe they have the best chance vs. the opposition?”

Among our respondents, the overwhelming majority chose policy as their criterion for the person they pick for president. However, some degrees of difference emerged when we considered the Traits, Roles, and Strategies.

Intuitive personalities were more interested in policy than Observant ones. The gap between these two traits was the largest separating any of the other trait dyads considered in this question. We know that Intuitive people are more comfortable in the world of ideas and theories. This can sometimes put them at a little distance from that which is practical. And frankly, what’s more practical than winning an election? You can support all the policies in the world, but if you can’t win the election, it doesn’t matter. Whoever wins has the influence over policies.

On the other hand, one could argue that prematurely giving up the fight for policies you believe in may mean that they will continue to be ignored instead of leading to fruitful discussions and change. Balancing the two necessities is certainly a challenging task, and if this primary season is any indication, significant portions of the U.S. population feel that their voices are not being heard.

It may look more noble for those of the Analyst and Diplomat persuasion to lean on lofty policy for deciding their candidates. However, it could also indicate their occasional impracticality – that point when an idea becomes more important than the appropriate act. Some may feel that their ideals are the most important consideration and see fighting for them as more important than strategy or winning.

For example, should one stay at home on election day because their “ideal” candidate lost the primary, even though it might give the general election win to the other party which is diametrically opposed to the ideals for which the candidate stood? Wouldn’t it be more practical to support the person who won in the party primary, whose positions are appreciably closer to one’s own, and who might be able to defeat the other party’s candidate? Or if we look from a different perspective, maybe it does make more sense to refuse to compromise and express your disapproval in this way?

For some Intuitive types, it might make sense to stay home. For them, ideals and ideas could supersede the practical. Diplomats, in their quest to be genuine, can be especially stubborn about such things. Choosing between pure policy or a strategic win can be a difficult challenge for these passionate, idealistic types. (As of this writing, Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters are having this very discussion.)

While there is not as dramatic a gap between Introverted and Extraverted traits, Introverts are a bit more likely to see policy as the main reason they select a candidate. Or maybe it’s more accurate to take the perspective that Extraverts are a bit more likely to embrace winning as their main motivation.

Interestingly, the Democrats in our survey were significantly more likely (~+10%) than Republicans to vote for policies rather than against opposition, regardless of their age or personality traits. This supports the idea that the Democratic party is perhaps the more idealistic of the two.

Looking at Strategies, it makes sense that those with the combined Introversion and Turbulent traits (the Constant Improvement Strategy) would more likely choose a candidate because of policy. Policy is about ideas, philosophies, strategies, and other things that require thoughtful consideration. Thinking is often done alone and Introverts, especially Turbulent ones, spend more time mulling over things before acting than their more action- and winning-oriented Extraverted and Assertive counterparts.

What’s Next?

In the next article of this series (now available), we will discuss how personality traits correlate with individual candidate preferences. Regardless of whether you feel the Bern, aim to be Stronger Together, or think America needs to be Made Great Again, we are sure you will find the insights interesting. For now, please feel free to leave a comment below!