Working Papers

Breaking Campaign Promises Does Not Harm Politicians: Experimental Evidence from the United States and Israel

(with Alon Zoizner)

Abstract: According to a large literature in political science, campaign promises play an important role in the electoral process: candidates and parties make a large number of promises to the public during the campaign, and citizens are believed to incorporate that information into their political decisions. Based on two experiments in the United States and Israel, we find that in polarized political environments—where people tend to process information in ways that serve their partisan goals—broken promises have little impact on citizens’ evaluations. In line with our preregistered expectations, we find that citizens do not sanction ingroup politicians who break their promises. Instead, they use different reasoning strategies to downplay and rationalize the broken promise. At the same time, citizens’ evaluations of outgroup politicians also are not influenced by broken promises; these evaluations are very low regardless of politicians’ promise breaking. These results suggest that campaign promises have a more limited impact on citizens’ attitudes than previously thought and highlight a negative implication of political polarization for electoral accountability.


Personality and the Policy Positions of Politicians

(with Lior Sheffer)

Abstract: Politicians’ support of or opposition to concrete policies is uniquely consequential for policymaking, public opinion, and a host of other societal outcomes. Explaining their policy positions is therefore a major research agenda in political science. Here, we evaluate the role of politicians’ personality traits, measured with the Big Five typology, in shaping how liberal or conservative their economic and social policy positions are. While existing research establishes this link among non-elites, it is far from obvious that the same holds for politicians, who have systematically different personality profiles, and whose positions are constrained by party sorting. Using an in-person study of 893 legislators in five countries who completed personality questionnaires and provided detailed issue positions, we find that Openness to Experience is a consistently strong and significant predictor of politicians’ positions, but a null relationship for Conscientiousness. We discuss implications for the role of elites’ individual characteristics in policymaking.


Citizens’ Perceptions of the Ideal Politician: Evidence from Three Countries

(with Jeroen Joly)

Abstract: Existing evidence establishes that citizens attach high importance to the personality characteristics of individual politicians. Yet which traits are more important to voters than others, and why, remains unclear. Analyzing survey data from Belgium, Canada, and Israel (N = 4,543) and using the Big Five model of personality as our conceptual framework, we ask (1) what profile of core personality traits citizens perceive as ideal for a politician and (2) what the individual-level origins of these preferences are. Across countries, personality instruments, and modeling strategies, we find two highly consistent patterns. First, in contrast to the findings of some recent studies, citizens rate personality traits attesting to politicians’ competence and performance as more desirable than traits pertaining to their sociability and interpersonal orientations. Second, the strongest predictor of a citizen’s elite trait preference is his or her own score on that trait; in other words, citizens prefer politicians who resemble them in terms of personality. Our results shed light on the standards by which citizens evaluate candidates and leaders in an era when politics becomes increasingly personalized.