Local Researchers Examine How Personality Traits Lead to Third-party Voting

Plus, other Michigan researchers explore what words define the 2020 election and the role of party identification
third-party voting
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Ahead of the Nov. 3 election, metro Detroit universities are researching what key issues play into voter choices, how personality traits lead to third-party voting, and how party identification plays a roll in voting. Here’s a look at what local researchers are up to:

What words define the 2020 election?

University of Michigan’s Michael Traugott of the Center for Political Studies, is partnering with CNN on a polling project called “The Breakthrough.” The survey, which started in June and ends right before Election Day, aims to learn what key issues and characteristics are playing into voter choices. Each week, 1,000 participants selected at random from across the U.S. are asked, “What have you heard, read, or seen in the past few days about Trump/Biden?” As of late August, voters say they’ve generally heard more about President Donald Trump than Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “Coronavirus” tops the list of words associated with Trump’s name. For Biden, the word is “nice.”

How personality traits lead to third-party voting

Why do some people opt out of the binary choice of Republican or Democrat? Eastern Michigan University researchers are examining the role of the five personality traits — neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness — and their role in third-party voting. People who are more agreeable tend to go with the “good enough” candidate who has a better chance of winning, whereas those who are more conscientious are drawn to third parties. These findings suggest that some people are just hard-wired to go a certain direction, researchers say.

Party loyalty trumps all

The American National Election Studies, a decades-long, ongoing project from University of Michigan, finds party identification is the greatest determining factor when people cast their ballots. Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist who used to run the study, says findings since the late 1940s have been consistent on this score: “We’re in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years. We’re having racial demonstrations on an order we haven’t seen since the 1960s. Yet a vast majority of people who voted for Trump will vote for him again. Why? Partisan identification gives you an answer.”

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