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Title:The behavioral consequences of personality in state legislatures
Author(s):Remmel, Megan
Director of Research:Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bernhard, William T.; Canache, Damarys J.; Sulkin, Tracy E.
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):personality
state legislatures
political psychology
political behavior
legislative behavior
Abstract:This dissertation explores the potential impacts of personality – as operationalized by the Big Five framework – on the preferences and behavior of state legislators. Within the study of American politics, scholars generally study the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the mass public or the characteristics and behaviors of political elites and the institutions in which they reside. Within both strains of research, we have developed an extraordinary understanding of how the political environment influences individual political thought and behavior. In recent years, scholars of the mass public have undertaken renewed efforts to study the role biological and resulting psychological predispositions play in shaping political behavior. As the acceptance of the Big Five framework in psychology has increased, political science has seen a resurgence of work investigating the effects of personality on political values, attitudes, and behaviors. Scholars have generally studied these streams – the environment and more individually-based biological and psychological factors – separately. Furthermore, while researchers have recently undertaken a great deal of work on how biology and personality affect values, attitudes, and behaviors at the mass level, they have largely failed to undertake similar attempts in studies of elite political behavior. In this dissertation, I develop a framework for placing the personality characteristics of state legislators into a broader institutional context. I argue personality traits serve as stable, biologically-based dispositions, and I demonstrate empirically personality does indeed influence the behavior of state legislators above and beyond existing institutional explanations. I argue personality plays an important role in shaping which activities legislators prefer to engage, the amount of time legislators dedicate to those particular activities, the number of introductions and cosponsored measures to which legislators attach their names, the legislative success of legislators, and the pattern of campaign fundraising legislators undertake. Rather than focusing solely on environmental explanations for engaging in activities such as introductions and cosponsorship or participating on committees, I argue for a more nuanced understanding of what motivates legislators to engage in legislative activities. Although factors such as constituency and party pressure certainly play significant roles in determining how legislators allocate their time in office, I believe individuals’ personalities also affect whether and how often legislators put forth effort within the institution. In addition to bringing new insight regarding the antecedents of legislative politics, this dissertation helps to demonstrate the benefit of incorporating key concepts from political psychology in the study of elite political behavior.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/45529
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Megan Remmel
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
2015-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08


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