Key words Personality, Big 5, political participation, Facebook, online political engagement

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1 Online Political Engagement, Facebook and Personality Traits Paper to be presented at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) meeting, 22 nd World Congress of Political Science Madrid July 8-12, 2012 Authors Ellen Quintelier, KU Leuven, Belgium Yannis Theocharis, University of Mannheim, Germany Abstract Despite the growing literature on the effects of personality traits on political participation, there is little discussion about the potential effects of such traits on the increasingly popular forms of online political engagement. In a changing media environment where social production and exposure becomes central, people with different personality traits may be inclined to engage into forms of participation that are different from those in the offline realm. Using the Big 5 framework we test the effect of personality traits on various forms of online and offline political engagement in sample of 433 undergraduate students. Consistent with long-standing empirical observations in the offline realm, our findings show that the effects of personality traits on online forms of political engagement do not differ. Only openness to experience and extraversion have an effect on online political engagement. For consciousness, agreeableness and emotional stability only small effects were observed. Key words Personality, Big 5, political participation, Facebook, online political engagement 1

2 Introduction In the current, ever-changing new media environment people with different personality traits may be inclined to engage in types of participation that are different not only from those in the offline realm (Mondak, 2010), but even from those that have long established themselves in the online realm, such as signing e-petitions and ing politicians. The mass popularisation of Facebook, a platform based largely on already existing networks, which offers new opportunities for political engagement (Kushin & Yamamoto, 2010; Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009), is likely to have made some modes of online-based participation more attractive to individuals with, for instance, more extravert personality traits, but less appealing to others whose more introvert personality traits may lead them to adopt more subtle ways of engaging in politics. To date, this interaction between personality and online participation has remained unexplored territory. There are various reasons for studying the relationship between personality and online political engagement. Among them are the increasing importance of the internet, the diversity of political opinions expressed online and the new forms of political campaigning, such as Facebook campaigns. Political communication research has also shown that there is an increasing hybridisation between social media and online news outlets. This is beginning to influence the kind of news traditionally produced by mainstream broadcasters (Anstead & O Loughlin, 2011; Chadwick, 2007) and it allows social media users to shape the political news agenda by having their blog and Facebook posts or tweets appear on the news roll. Understanding whether these new ways of agenda setting reflect the personality traits of a certain people who engage in politics online can expand our knowledge about what such an agenda may look like in the future. Research by Jenkins et al (2009) shows that content sharing, experience exchange and knowledge acquisition that take place alongside problem solving in online participatory cultures, helps participants develop a sense of connection with one another and with community norms. Getting to know more about the personality characteristics that make (especially young) people more likely to participate online in these cultures can provide valuable information for civic education specialists who develop platforms for teaching young people civic skills (see for example Coleman, 2008). In addition, learning more about what personality traits are more likely to foster engagement in online politics may be especially useful to political campaigners. Indeed, it is plausible to state that the famous digitally-based Obama campaign was so successful because the majority of those involved were extravert and keen to engage in politics using new, creative social networking site-based ways, than because they were introvert and skeptical of the effectiveness of social media in politics (Kushin & Yamamoto, 2010). Finally, considering that research has suggested different personality traits may be associated with different ideological positions (Gerber, Huber, Doherty, & Dowling, 2011a; van Hiel, Kossowska, & Mervielde, 2000), studying the effect of personality traits on online political behaviour can be valuable for a better understanding of the ideological predisposition of future news agendas. 2

3 While previous political science research has examined the effects of personality on various forms of political participation (Gerber et al., 2011b; Gosling, 2008; Katosh & Traugott, 1981; Mondak, Hibbing, Canache, Seligson, & Anderson, 2010), their impact on the increasingly prominent forms of online engagement in politics has received no attention. The purpose of the present study was to explore the impact of a group (N=433) of undergraduate students personality traits on offline and online political engagement, based on a set of personality dimensions reducing the complexities of personality to five basic traits: extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, conscientiousness and openness to experience (known as the Big Five ) (Gerber, et al., 2011b). To explore the effects of personality traits we designed three scales. The first one refers to Facebook engagement and allowed us to monitor types of participation that in the vast majority of cases take place transparently, i.e. under the full visibility of one s circle of friends 1. The second one refers to more general, pre-social-media forms of online political engagement and includes online political activities that can also be practised anonymously avoiding exposure to a wider social circle, for example disseminating political information on the web. With our last scale, for offline engagement, we aimed to observe whether the internet, with its capacity for both broader social exposure and anonymity, allows people with certain personality traits to engage to a greater or lesser degree in different political practices online and offline. We find similar results of personality traits analysis on online and offline political participation: while openness to experience and extraversion are relevant for all types of political participation, the other three personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability) have only a minor influence. In order to interpret the findings in a wider context, we first review the literature on personality and political participation and outline the main findings. We then present the Big Five personality traits, elaborate on our reasons for thinking that they have an impact on how people engage in online politics, and propose our hypotheses. Personality traits, offline and online political engagement Personality is a biologically influenced and enduring psychological structure that shapes behavior (Mondak, 2010, p. 6). Personality traits can be understood as inherently dynamic dispositions that interact with the opportunities and challenges of the moment (McCrae & Costa, 1994, p. 175), which, scholars have argued, are inheritable and quite stable over life (McCrae & Costa, 1994; Mondak, 2010, p. 43). The Five Factor Model, or the Big 5 framework, is a set of personality dimensions which capture broad and enduring dispositions that shape how people respond to the stimuli they encounter in the world' (Gerber, et al., 2011b) and is broadly accepted as the best way to measure dispositional traits in a meaningful way (Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003; Mondak, 2010, p. 29; Ross et al., 2009). Gerber et al. (2011b) have argued that the effects of personality are comparable to the effect of income and education on political participation, hence one of the most important predictors of political participation (Gerber, et al., 2011b; Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995). Based on the Big 5, there are five different personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional 3

4 stability (John & Srivastava, 1999; Mondak, 2010) 2. These traits have not only been found to be related to political behavior, but also to predict a variety of behaviours ranging from job and school performance to juvenile delinquency, musical tastes and dress (see Gosling, 2008; Ozer & Benet-Martínez, 2006). Do different personality traits matter for engagement in politics online? Given the growing preoccupation with social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter by a very large proportion of the world s population (Facebook numbers 750 million active users), and their adoption for political purposes by everyday citizens, activists, revolutionaries, campaign organisers and elected representatives, studying the effect of personality traits on online engagement is becoming increasingly relevant. Research shows that the online realm is becoming an increasingly popular space for discussion about politics (Dahlgren, 2005; Papacharissi, 2004), group support, organisation and coordination of political action (Bimber, Flanagin, & Stohl, 2009; Earl & Kimport, 2011), political socialisation, political commentary and political reporting (Anstead & O Loughlin, 2011; Papacharissi & Oliveira, 2011) and social capital enrichment (Valenzuela, et al., 2009). The arrival of Web 2.0 and social media allowed for quick, easy and if desired- public formation of political groups that support particular candidates or issues, fast acquisition of political information, engagement in online discussions with others about issues or candidates and befriending elected representatives, blogging about political issues and video sharing (boyd, 2008). Brown et al. (2007) found that individuals who participate in online social environments such as SNS are likely to experience a sense of understanding, connection, involvement and interaction with others who participate in these environments. Haythornthwaite (1999) notes that social resources such as emotional support, companionship and a sense of belonging are visibly exchanged online between individuals who do not know each other in the offline environment. All in all, the internet provides opportunities to engage in politics not only in a transparent and even discussion-provoking way via social networking sites, but also anonymously through less identity-revealing ways. As in offline politics, where engagement in political acts can sometimes be carried out without disclosure of the identity of the participant, (for example, a masked protester in conflictual protest action context or, more commonly, the anonymity of voting), participation offered by the internet might have an impact on which personalities end up reacting politically in different online frameworks. If this holds true, observations regarding political engagement online may differ from those offline. In the current, rapidly changing media environment the use of Facebook by hundreds of millions makes it more likely that calls for political action, newspaper articles with political content, political connotations or even pictures and videos related to both national and global political issues will find their way into news feeds, Faceboook walls and inboxes. As such, the various ways through which people may find themselves confronted with information about elections, causes, and challenging social and political issues posted by friends, are increasing, and so does the opportunity to spontaneously like, join or comment on these topics 3. Different personalities, however, may engage in different ways on Facebook, which is built around existing networks where 4

5 everyone can see what their friends do (Ellison, Steinfeld, & Lampe, 2007; Ross, et al., 2009). This is not the case for other forms of anonymous, online political engagement. People with particular personality traits might be more likely to engage in low-profile and potentially anonymous forms of online engagement -such as signing a petition- than embrace and redistribute a call for action for a controversial issue on a Facebook wall. It might therefore be that introvert personalities are more likely to engage in politics through online platforms in general, and less likely to engage in forms of Facebook participation requiring far greater social interaction (e.g., posting on one s social networking profile information about joining a political meeting or a demonstration). Considering these differences in personality traits, we argue that personality may have an important role to play on which political issues people will seek online. If people with certain predominant personality traits engage in different political issues online than others, this, as a consequence, may lead to greater visibility, organisation and popularisation reflecting the preferences of people with some personality traits but not those of others. This poses an interesting political question: if people with certain, say, more open and new-experience-seeking personality traits are more likely to participate in mainstream discussion, organisation, and participation eponymously online 4, when others, emotionally less stable and introvert are less likely to participate in such online engagement, then is it not likely that the news agenda and political actions organised may end up reflecting the main tenets of such personalities? Considering that social media users have started to influence the way news is produced (Anstead & O Loughlin, 2011; Chadwick, 2007), getting to know which personalities are more attracted to different forms of engagement with politics, becomes increasingly important. We distinguish between 3 forms of political participation: individualistic (and, if desired, anonymous) online political engagement, visible Facebook engagement and (also visible) offline political engagement 5. As for the terminology used, we will refer to Facebook engagement and online political engagement for the separate scales and to refer to both, we will use the term online political participation. Taking into consideration the potential consequences of having socially-based but also more individualistic (and, if desired, anonymous) forms of participation, we will explore whether people with different personality traits prefer different types of political engagement. Each of the 5 personality traits will be outlined in what follows. The Big Five and online engagement in politics Openness to experience Openness to experience describes the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual s mental and experiential life (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121). People who are open to experiences are open-minded and prefer originality. They always look for new information and experiences; they are intellectually curious and more likely to engage in politics (Mondak & Halperin, 2008, p. 342). Evidence shows that people who are open to 5

6 experience are more likely to contact a politician, to try and convince other people how to vote, to show their party preference through stickers, bumper signs or campaign buttons and to donate money to a campaign, but not more likely to attend a meeting or to report voting (Mondak, 2010). Vecchione and Caprara (2009), using a sum scale of five items (participating in political manifestations, distributing leaflets, donating money to a political association, having contacts with politicians, and working for a political party), found that people who are more open to new experiences are also more likely to participate in politics, while others have found positive effects of openness to experience on protest behavior (Opp & Brandstätter, 2010). Nevertheless, Mondak and Halperin (2008, p. 356), using data from 3 different surveys, found only limited effects of openness to experience on political participation: out of a list of 11 political activities containing items such as voting and attending rallies, only the frequency of speaking at meetings on local issues is influenced by openness to experience. Internet use has been associated with personality before. Ross and colleagues (2009), however, in their examination of the relationship between personality traits and Facebook use did not find any significant difference for the trait of openness in Facebook users. On the other hand, Correa et al. (2010) found that, among a general population study of US citizens, social media users are more open to new experiences. Openness to experience is a feature that encourages the type of creative participation and engagement with different ideas about how to influence the political process, which generally the online realm allows for. People with such a personality trait would be intrigued by new participatory forms, such as discussions within Facebook groups (Ellison, et al., 2007) or would provide information that could assist in the organisation and coordination of protest online (Shirky, 2010), and would consequently be curious to try them out because they present a novel way to approaching participation. We test this hypothesis: H1: People open to experience are more likely to engage in all forms of online political participation Extraversion Extraversion implies an energetic approach to the social and material world and includes traits such as sociability, activity, assertiveness, and positive emotionality (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121). Mondak (2010) found positive effects between extraversion and contacting politicians, and attending political meetings, but not for contributing money, displaying party preference and voting. Mondak and Halperin s (2008) analysis shows positive effects of extraversion on 7 out of the 11 political activities they examined. Other political activities found to be related with extraversion include participating in political manifestations, distributing leaflets, donating money to a political association, having relations with politicians, and working for a political party. Introvert people, on the other hand, have been found to be slightly less likely to vote (Blais & Labbé St-Vincent, 2011). Extravert people are more likely to find the Internet an intriguing place to advocate their preferences. 6

7 Social networking websites such as Facebook, in which political discussion can be transparent and challenging due to its high exposure to one s broader social networks (boyd, 2008) should be especially attractive to people with the highest scores of extraversion. Conversely, introvert people may be unwilling to participate in socialbased forms of engagement with politics such as those offered by Facebook, and more willing to engage through online forms of participation which have the potential to be carried out anonymously. Based on this we hypothesise: H2: Extravert people are more likely to engage in online political participation, and this effect is stronger for Facebook engagement than for online political engagement Agreeableness Agreeable people are cooperative and trustful. In other words: agreeableness contrasts a pro-social and communal orientation towards others with antagonism and includes traits such as altruism, tender-mindedness, trust, and modesty (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121). Moreover, agreeableness is linked with conflict avoidance (Gerber, et al., 2011b; Mondak & Halperin, 2008). According to Gerber and colleagues, findings regarding the relationship between agreeable people and political participation are mixed. Agreeableness has been found to be associated with nonpolitical volunteering, while altruism, which is an aspect of agreeableness, has been associated with higher levels of turnout (see Bekkers, 2005; Fowler, 2006). Research, however, has also shown that agreeableness is negatively linked with protest behavior (Opp & Brandstätter, 2010). This negative relationship can be explained because protesting is more likely to put someone in the position of having to engage in conflict over political issues, which could explain the negative effects on political participation. Voting and nonpolitical volunteering, on the other hand, lack this confrontational aspect, leading to a positive effect of agreeableness on these political activities 6. We posit that engagement in politics through social-based platforms such as Facebook is more likely to expose someone into conflict with others because posting on walls, participating in group discussions or even simply joining a group of potentially radical political texture, are transparent actions and therefore visible to one s social network (although, it should be noted, recent privacy settings introduced by Facebook may alter this). As a result, people with high scores in agreeableness may be repelled by forms of engagement in online politics if this may lead to conflict with their friends or members of their broader social network and, conversely, they may be attracted to forms of engagement that can be carried out anonymously. We therefore hypothesise that: H3: Agreeable people are more likely to engage in politics through online political engagement, rather than through Facebook engagement. 7

8 Conscientiousness Conscientiousness can be defined as socially prescribed impulse control that facilitates task- and goal-directed behavior, such as thinking before acting, delaying gratification, following norms and rules, and planning, organizing, and prioritizing tasks (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121). Conscientious people like to have control, are orderly and responsible while they are also characterised by dutifulness, norm compliance and achievement striving (Gerber, et al., 2011b, p. 696). They note that, to the extent that political participation is seen as a civic duty, conscientious people may be likely to participate (by way of adhering to social norms) in forms such as voting rather than in political meetings. They also note that conscientiousness may be associated with a focus on instrumental beliefs, which means that such individuals may eschew participation in favour of more practical and direct engagement activities that can lead to concrete personal payoffs. As with agreeableness, evidence supports both predictions (Mondak, et al., 2010). Mondak and Halperin (2008), for example, found that conscientious people were more likely to attend meetings and contact public officials regarding local issues, but found no effects for the other nine activities they examined. Bekkers (2005) found that conscientious people are slightly more likely to engage in (quasi-)political associations such as political parties, labor unions and environmental organizations. Ross et al. (2009, p. 579) expected that conscientious people would be less likely to use the internet because it distracts them from their daily tasks (which are seen as a duty). However, they did not find significant effects for this expectation. This trait is less likely to be related to online participation as none of the forms of general online engagement and Facebook engagement that we consider can be seen as civic duty. We also do not see how any form of engaging in politics online can lead to immediate, concrete personal payoffs (we are not considering extreme cases such as that of unleashing online classified diplomatic cables as with Wikileaks, for which that could well be the case) and we therefore hypothesise: H4: Conscientious people are less likely to engage in both forms of online political participation Emotional Stability Emotional stability is associated with self-assuredness and absence of anxiety, depression and other negative emotionality (Gerber, et al., 2011b, p. 696). An emotionally stable individual, therefore, is more likely to engage in a conflictual field as politics than someone less calm, anxious, easily upset and tense, although evidences appears again to be mixed. Emotionally stable people have been found to be slightly less likely to engage in politics (Mondak, 2010), while others found that they are more likely to attend campaign meetings or work for political parties or candidates (Mondak & Halperin, 2008). However, other studies find no effect (Vecchione & Caprara, 2009). 8

9 Neurotic people s (as the opposite of emotionally stable) engagement in politics may also be sheltered through online forms of engagement in politics as long as there is the option to remain anonymous. However, it might also be argued that neurotic people are less likely to engage in social-based types of online engagement such as Facebook engagement due to the exposure to their broader social network,which can cause them distress. We therefore hypothesise: H5: Less emotionally stable people are less likely to participate in Facebook engagement and more likely to participate in online political engagement. Data, measurement and methodology The study was conducted among Belgian first-year university students, during their first weeks at the university per cent of our sample had a Facebook profile (in Belgium, nearly half of the population is on Facebook -see, checkfacebook.com)- with the age group consisting of the 29,5 per cent). Participation in the survey was not a course requirement, but in practice more than 90 percent (or 433) of all students enrolled in the course participated. It is worth noting that all Belgian universities have open admission policies, hence there has not been any prior selection of respondents in this study. We assume that these students have not yet been exposed to any substantial influence from the university environment. We caution that the sample limitations prohibit us from generalizing the findings to a larger segment of the (online) population and our results are in no way representative of young people in Belgium. The purpose was, however, to assess the impact of personality traits on the newly popularised forms of online engagement, and to provide some initial observations as a basis for further research. Besides, the study contributes empirical evidence from an international study on Facebook use and provides a benchmark comparison of college students use of Facebook in a country other than the US where most research evidence come from. The fact that young people are generally more technologically savvy was a benefit to the study, along with their increased likelihood to be engaged in politics compared to the general population (see appendix for frequencies). For the measurement of personality traits we relied on self-ratings of personality. Mondak (2010, p. 32 & 108) argues that persons can easily, quickly and reliably rate their own personality -although other research has shown that despite the high degree of construct overlap between the ratings of the self and observers, there is substantial variance (Connolly, Kavanagh, & Viswesvaran, 2007). We used the traditional 44-Big Five item scale to measure the five types of personality 7, because the survey setting allowed a lengthier battery, leading to a better measure of personality than only 2 items per trait (Gerber, et al., 2011a). We used sum scales of different political activities (Gerber, et al., 2011b; Vecchione & Caprara, 2009), both for offline political engagement, Facebook and online political engagement, inspired from scales constructed for previous surveys on offline and online political participation (specifically see: Gibson, Lusoli, & Ward, 2005; 9

10 Gibson, Howard, & Ward, 2000). Despite growing research on the social and political effects of using Facebook, there is no consistent battery of questions for measuring political Facebook engagement (however, see Ellison, et al., 2007). As a result, we measured Facebook engagement based on whether the student participated in the following seven activities which are often used as a form of engagement with political issues on Facebook: supporting a societal/political group; using the share-button of a news website or other site to share a link; posting of article or video about the news/politics; responding positively to an invitation for a political meeting by a friend/group; liking a politician/party or supporting a group created by a politician/party; posting opinion about politics on a wall; using the share-button of a website of a politician/political party to share a link, article or video about the news/politics, and creating a Facebook group or activity for a societal/political event. Online political engagement was measured based on four activities: signing an online petition; disseminating information related to a political party or politician and disseminating a political message (not from politicians or a political party) on the internet (through non-social networking means such as blogs, s or forums) and sending an to a politician to complain about a certain issue. Although we use Facebook and online political engagement as two separate scales, people who are politically active on Facebook, are also more likely to be active in other places on the Net (as indicated by the correlation of.619 (p<0.001), but this does not indicate that everyone who engages politically online also engages in politics through Facebook. As for the terminology used, we will refer to Facebook engagement and online political engagement for the separate scales and when we refer to both, we will use the term online political participation. Offline political engagement, finally, was measured based on six items: signing a petition, participating in a protest march, boycotting products, attending a show with political content, wearing a t-shirt, badge stating a political message explicitly and making a political message publicly available. The frequency of each separate activity and Cronbach s α of the scales are reported in the appendix. Results Table 1 shows the frequency of each personality trait. All relevant personality items were coded in the same direction and we computed the mean score for each scale (John, Naumann, & Soto, 2008). The students scored highest on openness to experience and extraversion (two attitudes that are expected to have a positive effect on political participation), and lower on emotional stability. We also tested whether there were differences between the different majors (political and social science, communication as the largest groups and other majors) because different personalities might select different subjects (Penney, Davida, & Witt, 2011). We only found one difference for conscientiousness between the political/social science and other majors (p<0.01) with the political/social science major students being less conscientious (3.0 vs. 3.3). Table 1. about here 10

11 Table 2 shows the results of the bivariate analysis between personality traits and forms of political participation. Based on these findings, we found that two personality traits were positively related to political participation: openness to experience and extraversion. For the other personality traits, we found no significant correlation. This is a clear confirmation of hypotheses 1 and 2. Hypotheses 3, 4 and 5 require further analysis. The next step was to determine if the relationships hold true in multivariate analysis. Table 2. about here Table 3 shows the regression of the effect on political participation of all 5 personality traits. No control variables were considered. As Mondak (2010) also suggests, to date the simultaneity of the effect of personality on political participation on the one hand, and political interest, for instance, on the other is still unknown. To take these concerns into account to some extent, we included both models. The personality traits were only modestly correlated (as presented in the appendix). We used Poisson regression as the outcome of our analysis was count data, and the mean and variance of the scales were not very different (Agresti, 1996; Hampton, Sessions, & Ja Her, 2011). An odds ratio larger than 1 indicates a positive effect on political participation and an odds ratio smaller than 1 a negative effect. As we expected, openness to experience was related to more online political engagement, which confirms hypothesis 1, while the effect was stronger for online political engagement than engagement through Facebook. This means that, in our sample, people with more intellectual curiosity and openness to new alternatives were more likely to engage in online politics in general. The model also shows that extraversion is positively related to online political engagement and Facebook engagement, which confirms hypothesis 2. The effect is stronger on Facebook engagement, confirming that expressing a political opinion on Facebook requires a certain level of sociability and assertiveness, which can be avoided in online political engagement. The third hypothesis did not hold true in our findings. We expected a positive effect at least for online political engagement but agreeableness was not related to online political engagement or to Facebook engagement for that matter. We also expected that more conscientiousness would lead to less online political participation, which we found to be the case, but only the effect on online political engagement was significant, thus only partially confirming hypothesis 4. This means that people in our sample with this personality trait were probably skeptical about the effectiveness and concrete outcomes of engaging in politics through Facebook, but more receptive to the idea of engaging in politics through non-facebook forms. Finally, while we expected emotional stability to be positively related to Facebook engagement and less to online political engagement, we found no such effects, failing therefore to confirm hypothesis 5. Apparently, for the people in our sample, emotional stability did not matter for engagement in online politics. Summing up, our expectations regarding the impact of personality on engagement in politics online were only confirmed for three personality traits. It is notable that the strongest effects on online 11

12 engagement observed in the two traits (openness to experience and extraversion), were also observed for offline political engagement in our sample. Other research has also established that extraversion and openness to experience have the strongest and most consistent effect on engagement in offline political participation (Gerber, et al., 2011a; Mondak, 2010). Hence, our findings extend this result to the online sphere, indicating that some personalities will be over-represented in all forms of political participation (both online and offline). Table 3. about here We then regressed the effect of personality on political participation, controlling for different background variables and attitudes. We controlled for gender (1: female; 2: male), parental level of education (level of education of the mother), frequency of internet use (1: less than once a week 6: more than 5 hours a week), political interest (range 1: not interest 4: very interested) and political knowledge (sum scale of 13 questions with four answering options and don t know coded as incorrect answer) (Gerber, et al., 2011b; Verba, et al., 1995). Table 4 shows the results of the analysis including control variables. Including theses variables, we found that men were more likely to engage in online political engagement while parental education had no effect. We found that the more time young people spend online, the less likely they are to use it for online political engagement and Facebook engagement. This contradicts previous findings showing that those spending more time online are more likely to be politically active, especially those who are young and highly educated (Di Gennaro & Dutton, 2006; Gibson, et al., 2005; Howard, Rainie, & Jones, 2001). We also found that political interest was positively related to online political engagement and therefore the more interested people were in politics, the more likely it was that they would engage politically online. We found no such effect for knowledge. However, it should be kept in mind that this analysis was not based on a random sample, but on a sample of university students, who tend to have a quite homogeneous profile with respect to socioeconomic status (Hooghe, Stolle, Maheo, & Vissers, 2010). Similar effects of political attitudes on political participation have been found for offline political engagement. Table 4 shows positive effects for openness to experience and extraversion on all three types of political participation, which is in agreement not only with the findings of the models in Table 3, but also with that of most political participation-personality research. For the other personality traits results are mixed. We found that agreeable people are more likely to engage in online and offline political engagement, but not in Facebook engagement. Based on this finding, people in our sample are more likely to engage in online politics through acts that can remain anonymous, perhaps as a way to avoid potential confrontation with their peers on visible social network such as Facebook. This confirms hypothesis 3. Finally, as was the case in the first model, conscientiousness and emotional stability had no statistically significant effect, despite our expectation for 12

13 negative effects for conscientiousness and positive effects for emotional stability, especially on Facebook. Conscientiousness and emotional stability did not have any effect on offline political engagement either. Table 4. about here Conclusion As internet political participation becomes more important in contemporary politics and young people increasingly attracted by the internet and Facebook, learning more about how personality traits affect online political participation, especially because of findings showing that certain personalities may be ideologically predisposed in certain ways, acquires much significance. Given that some personality traits encourage more participation, and more visibly so than others, an analysis of personality traits and their effect on political engagement is one of the first steps in understanding who shapes the agendas on the internet, and what the consequences might be. If internet users who can at the same time be online agenda shapers, such as bloggers or Twitterers (who very often attract the attention of the media which thereafter publicise their contributions), are extravert people with personalities open to experience, then these people may be more open to the multitude of political opinions and ideas circulating on the internet and, as a result, more likely to advance their views and shape the agenda with issues that reflect their personality. However, if internet users are more conscientious or introvert people, less likely to be convinced about the concrete outcomes of online participation or unwilling to try experimental social-based types of participation such as mini campaigns and supporting a politician through social networks, this may well make a difference for highly social-based experimental and novel electoral campaigns such as the famous social media campaign of Barack Obama. This article is a first step towards exploring the impact of personality traits on political engagement. The findings of our analyses are twofold. On the one hand, we found strong and consistent effects of openness to experience and extraversion on both Facebook engagement and online political engagement. Openness to experience and extraversion are positively related to online political engagement, indicating that those who participate online in our sample are more open-minded, and look for new information than the inactive. These results also hold for the online sphere. Furthermore, those who engage in politics online are also more sociable, energetic and assertive than non-participants. On the other hand, the results for agreeableness, conscientiousness and, to a lesser extent, emotional stability, are mixed and the effects much smaller. These results also do not differ for Facebook engagement, online political engagement and offline political engagement. We found Facebook engagement to be unrelated to these three personality characteristics. Online political engagement, on the other hand, is related to less conscientiousness and more agreeableness. Less conscientious people are more likely to engage into politics online, perhaps indicating that engaging in politics via these avenues is a less well-thought over and perhaps more spontaneous and easy decision. Finally, we found that more agreeableness leads to more online political 13

14 engagement and that the last is not related to emotional stability. Agreeableness is weakly positively related to offline political engagement, but only after control variables have been included. Overall, our results did not differ significantly from those of similar analyses regarding offline political engagement: people who are more open to new experiences and extravert are more likely to engage in all forms of participation, both in the offline and online sphere. These findings are especially important in view of the civic training that government initiatives often seek to promote (Coleman, 2008). By knowing more about the online participation preferences of young people with different personality traits, website developers and civic engagement project managers can modify the concepts young people would relate to if they visited those sites, inviting people with, for example, introvert characteristics, and not just with extravert and new-experience seeking traits. The findings acquire additional importance given that some personalities are also linked to political opinions and ideology (Gerber, et al., 2011a). For example, if extravert people and those who are more open to new experiences are known to be more active online, but at the same time are known to have different opinions than those of the public at large, caution may be needed in interpreting or generalizing the agendas generated at the internet realm. Extravert people are known to be socially liberal, and those open to new experiences have been found to be more liberal and more center-left oriented (Caprara, et al., 2006; Gerber, et al., 2011a). However, as some of these ideological predispositions will cancel out, others will reinforce each other, with the potential consequence of leading to a more polarized opinion. Our findings indicate that many effects of personality on political participation are influenced by political attitudes such as political interest and knowledge. Indeed, in our sample adding the control variables led to (slightly) different effects of personality on online political engagement. Future research should thus explore the simultaneous effect of political attitudes and personality on political participation 8. In line with this, more research is needed to establish how environment, personality, attitudes and political behavior interact. Few attempts have been made: Mondak et al. (2010) present a scheme of how personality could affect political behavior, but they did not test this model. Even the causality of the relationship between personality, attitudes and behavior has hardly been tested yet. More, and especially longitudinal data from a young age onwards, are needed to fully explore this relationship. Furthermore, it is still not clear how these five personality traits are most effectively measured as to the number of items, the type of scale used and the items on the scale. Finally, more research is required for a consistent theory on the effects of personality on both offline and online political engagement. 14

15 Bibliography Agresti, A. (1996). An introduction to categorical data analysis. New York, NY: John Wiley. Almond, G. A., & Verba, S. (1963). The Civic Culture: political attitudes and democracy in five nations. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Anstead, N., & O Loughlin, B. (2011). The Emerging Viewertariat and BBC Question Time: Television Debate and Real-Time Commenting Online. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 16(4), Bekkers, R. (2005). Participation in voluntary associations: Relations with resources, personality, and political values. Political Psychology, 26(3), Bimber, B., Flanagin, A. J., & Stohl, C. (2009). Technological Change and the Shifting Nature of Political Organisation. In A. Chadwick & P. Howard (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics. London: Routledge. Blais, A., & Labbé St-Vincent, S. (2011). Personality traits, political attitudes and the propensity to vote. European Journal of Political Research, 50(3), boyd, d. (2008). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning - Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (pp ). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Brown, J., Broderick, A. J., & Lee, N. (2007). Word of Mouth Communication within Online Communities: Conceptualizing the Online Social Network. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21(3), Caprara, G. V., Schwartz, S., Capanna, C., Vecchione, M., & Barbaranelli, C. (2006). Personality and Politics: Values, Traits, and Political Choice. Political Psychology, 27(1), Carney, D. R., Jost, J. T., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2008). The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind. Political Psychology, 29(6), Chadwick, A. (2007). Digital network repertoires and organizational hybridity. [Proceedings Paper]. Political Communication, 24(3), Coleman, S. (2008). Doing IT for Themselves: Management versus Autonomy in Youth E-Citizenship. In L. Bennett (Ed.), Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media can Engage Youth. Cambridge: MIT Press. Connolly, J. J., Kavanagh, E. J., & Viswesvaran, C. (2007). The convergent validity between self and observer ratings of personality: A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 15(1), Correa, T., Hinsley, A., & de Zuniga, H. (2010). Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users' personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), Dahlgren, P. (2005). The Internet, public spheres, and political communication: Dispersion and deliberation. [Article]. Political Communication, 22(2), Di Gennaro, C., & Dutton, W. (2006). The Internet and the Public: Online and Offline Political Participation in the United Kingdom. Parliamentary Affairs, 59(2), Earl, J., & Kimport, K. (2011). Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age. Cambridge: MIT Press. Ellison, N. B., Steinfeld, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The Benefits of Facebook "Friends": Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, Fowler, J. (2006). Altruism and turnout. Journal of Politics, 68(3), Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., & Dowling, C. M. (2011a). The Big Five Personality Traits in the Political Arena. Annual Review of Political Science, 14, Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., Dowling, C. M., & Ha, S. E. (2010). Personality and Political Attitudes: Relationships across Issue Domains and Political Contexts. American Political Science Review, 104(1),

16 Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Doherty, D., Dowling, C. M., Raso, C., & Ha, S. E. (2011b). Personality Traits and Participation in Political Processes. Journal of Politics, 73(3), Gibson, R., Lusoli, W., & Ward, S. (2005). Online participation in the UK: Testing a Contextualised Model of Internet Effects. Policy Studies Association, 7(4), Gibson, R. K., Howard, P. E. N., & Ward, S. (2000). Social Capital, Internet Connectedness & Political Participation: A Four-Country Study. Paper prepared for the 2000 International Political Science Association. Quebec, Canada. Gosling, S. D. (2008). Snoop: What Your Stuff Says about You. New York: Basic Books. Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B. (2003). A Very Brief Measure of the Big-Five Personality Domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37(6), Hampton, K. N., Sessions, L., & Ja Her, E. (2011). Core Networks, Social Isolation, and New Media: Internet and Mobile Phone Use, Network Size, and Diversity. Information, Communication & Society, 14(1), Haythornthwaite, C. (1999). A Social Network Theory of Tie Strength and Media Use: A Framework for Evaluating Multi-level Impacts of New Media. Technical Report UIUCLIS 2002/1+DKRC, Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Hooghe, M., Stolle, D., Maheo, V., & Vissers, S. (2010). Why Can't a Student Be More Like an Average Person?: Sampling and Attrition Effects in Social Science Field and Laboratory Experiments. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Howard, P. E. N., Rainie, L., & Jones, S. (2001). Days and Nights on the Internet: The Impact of a Diffusing Technology. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3), Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robinson, A. J. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. White paper. Cambridge: MIT Press. John, O. P., Naumann, L. P., & Soto, C. J. (2008). Paradigm shift to the integrative Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and conceptual issues. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp ). New York, NY: Guilford Press. John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big-Five Trait Taxonomy: History, Measurement, and Theoretical Perspectives. In L. Pervin & J. O.P. (Eds.), Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research (2nd ed.) (pp ). New York: Guilford. Katosh, J., & Traugott, M. (1981). The Consequences of Valitated and Self-reported Voting Measures. [Article]. Public Opinion Quarterly, 45(4), Kushin, M., & Yamamoto, M. (2010). Did Social Media Really Matter? College Students' Use of Online Media and Political Decision Making in the 2008 Election. [Article]. Mass Communication and Society, 13(5), McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1994). The Stability of Personality - Observations and Evaluations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 3(6), Mondak, J., & Halperin, K. (2008). A framework for the study of personality and political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 38(2), Mondak, J. J. (2010). Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mondak, J. J., Hibbing, M., Canache, D., Seligson, M. A., & Anderson, M. R. (2010). Personality and Civic Engagement: An Integrative Framework for the Study of Trait Effects on Political Behavior. American Political Science Review, 104(01), Opp, K.-D., & Brandstätter, H. (2010). Political Protest and Personality Traits: A Neglected Link. Mobilization, 15(3), Ozer, D., & Benet-Martínez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, Papacharissi, Z. (2004). Democracy online: civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups. [Article]. New Media & Society, 6(2),

17 Papacharissi, Z., & Oliveira, M. F. (2011). The Rhytms of News Storytelling on Twitter. Paper presented at the World Association for Public Opinion Research Conference, Amsterdam, September Penney, L. M., Davida, E., & Witt, L. A. (2011). A review of personality and performance: Identifying boundaries, contingencies, and future research directions. Human Resource Management Review, 21(4), Ross, C., Orr, E., Sisic, M., Arseneault, J., Simmering, M., & Orr, R. (2009). Personality and motivations associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(2), Shirky, C. (2010). The Political Power of Social Media. Foreign Affairs, 90(1), Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. (2009). Is There Social Capital in a Social Network Site?: Facebook Use and College Students' Life Satisfaction, Trust, and Participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(4), van Hiel, A., Kossowska, M., & Mervielde, I. (2000). The relationship between Openness to Experience and political ideology. Personality and Individual Differences, 28(4), Vecchione, M., & Caprara, G. V. (2009). Personality determinants of political participation: The contribution of traits and self-efficacy beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(4), Verba, S., & Nie, N. (1972). Participation in America. Political Democracy and Social Equality. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: civic voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 17

18 Appendix Table. Entries are percentage of valid responses of political Facebook activism (n=356; 77 missing; Cronbach s α:.768). Never Sometimes Often Supported a societal/political goal, for instance by becoming member of a certain group (not founded by a politician or political party) Used a share-button of a newswebsite or other site to share a link, article or video about the news/politics Being invited for a political meeting by a friend/group Indicated that you like a politician/party or support a group that is created by a politician/party Given your opinion about politics on a wall Used a share-button of a website of a politician/political party to share a link, article or video about the news/politics Created a Facebook-group or activity for a societal/political event

19 Table. Entries are percentage of valid responses of online political participation (n=375; 58 missing; Cronbach s α:.575). Never Sometimes Often Signed an online petition Disseminated information from a political party or politician through the internet ( , blog, website,..) Disseminated a political message (not from politicians or a political party) through the internet Sent an to a politician to complain about a certain issue Table. Entries are percentage of valid responses of offline political participation (n=375; 58 missing; Cronbach s α:.612). Never Sometimes Often Boycotted certain products for political, ethical or environmental reasons Signed a petition Attended a show or cultural event with political content, Writing or displaying a political statement publicly Deliberately wearing a patch, sticker, button or T-shirt for a political or social cause, Took part in a legal march or protest For all these activities, it was explicitly stated that they should not be performed online. 19

20 Table. Correlations between personality measures Openness to experience Extraversion Agreeableness Conscientiousn ess Emotional stability Openness to experience 1.184*** Extraversion.184*** **.288*** Agreeableness *.204*** Conscientiousness **.120* Emotional stability ***.204*** Entries are Pearson correlations. Table. Descriptives of control variables. Missing Mean Std. Deviation Gender Education mother Frequency of internet use Political interest Political knowledge

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