A short scale to measure self-reported aversive personality in political elites


In order to explain the behavior of political elites, research increasingly considers personality traits. Within this line of research, a recent focus is on socially aversive -– yet non-pathological –- personality traits (e.g., Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy), with the idea to better understand behavior violating generally accepted ethical, moral, and social norms. Assessments of politicians’ aversive personality traits have so far been almost exclusively based on observer reports of experts and voters. Herein, by contrast, we introduce the Political Elites Aversive Personality Scale (PEAPS) particularly tailored to measure self-reported aversive personality among politicians. Based on two studies with German politicians, we develop a 6-item short scale comprising aspects of different socially aversive personality traits (Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and spitefulness). The scale shows an acceptable model fit, an acceptable internal consistency, an acceptable measurement equivalence, and meaningful correlations with other (self-reported) psychological traits and campaign behavior. Moreover, the scale significantly contributes to the explanation of candidates' negative campaigning, going beyond the explanatory power of models capturing broad, basic personality traits. Overall, the suggested scale provides interesting links to research in (political) psychology and can help to explain attitudes, behavior, and performance of political elites.

Journal of Personality Assessment