Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together? The Personality Traits of Politicians, and Bureaucrats in Decentralized Government

Christoffer Florczak, Steven Ludeke, Robert Klemmensen*, Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard, Camilla Voigt Arends

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

A substantial body of work has highlighted the distinctive personality trait levels of elected officials, but very little is known about the personality of those who actually implement the political will of these officials, namely, bureaucrats. We sent surveys to all Danish municipal politicians and high-level bureaucrats for whom contact information could be obtained (92% of total). With response rates of 53% and 40% for politicians and bureaucrats, respectively, our sample of political elites across the two groups represents the best-powered study of political elites to date. Responses to our 30-item Big Five survey (the BFI-2-S; Soto and John, 2017a; Vedel et al., 2020) highlighted substantial similarity among various categories of political elites. For example, differences between bureaucrats and elected officials were small on average, and less than half that observed in a recent study comparing Danish elected officials with a representative population sample (Nørgaard & Klemmensen, 2018). Comparisons between bureaucrats of different rank partially aligned with results on executive personality (Ones & Dilchert, 2009). Potential implications for effective political functioning and for meeting the needs of those with personalities diverging from those of political elites are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110065
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Volume163
ISSN0191-8869
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1. Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Big Five
  • Bureaucracy
  • Congruence
  • Personality
  • Political elites
  • Representation

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