We've been Trumped! Personality Predictors of Voting Behavior

Student Author(s)

Allie Schultz

Faculty Mentor(s)

Although Darling magazine states that it is trying to reshape how women are represented in the media by attempting to define modern femininity, the ways in which they define modern female bodies remains unclear. In this project, I used the theoretical concept of hegemonic femininity to examine the objects of analysis. Hegemonic femininity refers to the ways in which traditional norms for women are normalized and remain dominant. This hegemony is often maintained through media representations. Qualitative textual analysis revealed that Darling magazine uses specific aesthetics to appeal to middle and upper-class women and although models and photos challenge beauty ideals of hegemonic femininity, the stories in the magazine are fairly stereotypical.

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Unlike political propaganda, sociological propaganda creates “an atmosphere that influences people imperceptibly without having the appearance of propaganda; it gets to [people] through [their] customs, through [their] most unconscious habits…as a result, [people] adopt new criteria of judgement and choice…” (Ellul, 1965, 66-73). Ellul continues, “It conditions; it introduces a truth, an ethic in various benign forms, which although sporadic, end by creating a fully established personality structure.” In essence, sociological propaganda insidiously activates personal traits to transform personality into ideology. While much attention has been given to demographic analysis of the electorate following the most recent election, this study proposes to explore the nuances of personality. Because traditional ideologies of liberal and conservative voting block interest groups fail to explain the outcome of the most recent election, this study asks: Are voting preferences predicted by personality traits, and if so, does personality become the basis for new ideologies? Specifically, how are perceptions of self (e.g., in-group identification, trust, paranoia, dogmatism and self-efficacy), understanding of others (e.g., authoritarian aggression, ambivalent sexism), perceived media realism and consumption, and cognitive style (e.g., need for cognition, evaluative consistency) related to voting behavior? Two hundred fifty college-aged, first time voters will complete an online survey comprised of existing personality trait scales and voting behavior questions. The implications of personality predictors on voting behavior will be analyzed within the framework of Ellul’s sociological propaganda. In a democratic political system, political ideology should transcend personality differences; if personality traits are found to predict voting preferences in the recent election, this is a serious concern. The implications of personality driving political ideology, and risks of susceptibility to direct propaganda will also be discussed.


This research was supported by the Communications Department at Hope College.

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