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Narcissists are More Likely to be Involved in Politics, Study Says

Previous studies have linked the inflated sense of self-importance to behaviours harmful to functioning democracies.
October 5, 2020, 9:45am
trump narcissist
PHoto courtesy of Gerd Altmann / Pixabay 

Picture a narcissist: a vain, egotistical person who is bloody draining to argue with, deeply convinced (despite contrary evidence) of their valuable place in the world, and apparently, a hardcore lover of selfies, which kinda explains their big love for themselves. Now picture someone in the political realm and you’ll see some striking similarities, even when it comes to their deep love for selfies.

How to Argue With a Narcissist

This links together according to a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which found that people with higher levels of narcissism—a trait combining selfishness, entitlement and a need for admiration—were also more likely to participate in politics. This could include contacting politicians, signing petitions, donating money to political causes, voting in elections, and well, being a politician. Explains Kanye West’s latest moves as well.

The researchers involved in this study examined data from the U.S. and Denmark, with 500 and 2,450 participants in each, respectively. The surveys assessed narcissism and eight types of political participation such as signing a petition, participating in protests or in a demonstration, buying or boycotting products for political reasons, attending political meetings, donating money, contacting politicians, and taking part in political forums and discussion groups.

The survey also focused on voting behaviour and sociodemographic variables such as gender, race, education, age and political ideology.

There was no relationship found between narcissism and voting in general elections but when it came to other forms of participation, including voting in midterm elections, people with more narcissistic personalities were found to be more involved in politics. 

“We have entered into an ‘Age of Entitlement’ and a ‘post-truth’ world that combine to form an unprecedented cultural movement where large portions of the public pursue self-interest and self-promotion above all things and truth is whatever you want it to be, where alternative facts are given equal standing with credible sources,” said study author Pete Hatemi, a professor at Penn State University, to Psypost. 

“The general picture is that individuals who believe in themselves, and believe that they are better than others, engage in the political process more,” the researchers mentioned in their study. “At the same time, those individuals who are more self-sufficient are also less likely to take part in the political process. This means that policies and electoral outcomes could increasingly be guided by those who both want more, but give less.”

Another study published in 2017 stated that the Dark Triad of personality traits—one where narcissism is joined by psychopathy and Machiavellianism) are more evident in those who major in business and economics in college. “The desire for power, status, and money characterising Dark Triad individuals may steer them towards, for example, economics, business, and law education because these educations pave the way for a career in the corporate world," the study authors said. It’s worth mentioning that U.S. President Donald Trump has a degree in business: a Bachelor of Science in economics.

According to the researchers, previous work has shown that people with narcissistic tendencies could be harmful to functioning democracies, like shifting focus from civic responsibilities towards a person’s own self interest. Higher narcissism in the general public has been connected with more conflict and civic strife, in addition to less cooperation, compromise, and forgiveness. Successful democratic functioning requires trust in the institution, and if those who are entitled and narcissistic are the most engaged, the very future of democracy might be in danger.

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