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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Politics

While every year has its ups and downs in the world of politics, this year the topic seems to be more heated than ever. Well, why can the topic get so heated? How can politics cause riffs? What makes someone decide to be politician? How do we decide where we stand politically? All of these questions and more are what make politics a psychological activity. Politics are a passionate part of our society. Our political preferences are personal. Our political choices are often not decided on lightly. The behaviors of a political are traits we can analyze. There is a lot to crack open here, so let’s get started! Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of politics.

Politics are personal.


Perhaps the biggest connection between politics and psychology is the fact that it’s personal. Politics are personal, there is no way around that. What we believe in, the political party we choose to vote for, our developed opinions, these are all generated by how we feel psychologically. Political psychologists understand that our political identity is a reflection of our individual identity. 

What you classify yourself as is psychological.

On par with politics being personal, the political party we choose join is personal. In the United States, there are two main political parties. These are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Most voting Americans can likely classify themselves as part of one of these parties. When choosing a political party, someone is likely aligning their morals and values with their party. Identifying what you believe in and what is most important to you as an American is a psychological activity. 

There are also identities such as liberal and conservative. 

Weighing in on either the side of liberal or conservative is not simply a political difference. People who strongly identify as one of these things are very different psychologically. The stark differences between these parties may represent how they think and how they treat people. Studies have shown that conservatives tend to base their opinions on fear. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to base their opinions on feeling safe. These opinions are typically based on issues such as race, immigration, public health, environmental safety, national security, economical factors, etc. These issues can get quite personal. 

Political preferences may be based on where and how we grew up.

When we are young, we are naturally reflections of our environment. We may spend time with our parents and their friends. We may go to church with them, or we may live in a town that strongly identifies with a political party. Our childhood environment may shape how we see the world, show where we place our values, and ultimately how we see politics. When we leave home, we may start to see the world a bit differently and develop our own opinions. 

As we grow older, the same goes for the social circles we choose to involve ourselves in. We may find friends who value the same things as us. Or, similar to our youth, we may become reflections of our environment. 

Politicians may have common personality traits amongst each other. 

Regardless of what political party you identify as, it may not be hard to see the similarities among all politicians. A politician is a specific type of person. While politicians from separate parties may seem drastically different, their core characteristics are actually quite similar. In order to be successful, politicians are typically charming, confident, relatable, goal-oriented, fearless and not very complicated. Unfortunately, many politicians are also characterized as self-serving and narcissistic. 

Politicians use psychology to their advantage.

Seeing as politics are personal, politicians tend to get personal. As we mentioned previously, their core characteristics are quite similar. This may mean that they use similar tactics to earn supporters. Political persuasion is a part of the gig that most of them have mastered. A politician likely creates a campaign based around what will generate the most support. This includes having a stable family base that supports their campaign. It also includes picking one specific side, working hard, referencing a solidified plan, knowing what their voters want to hear, and using advertising and social media tactfully. 

Voting and why we do it.

Voting is just another political activity we do that links to our psychology. While there are many reasons that would make someone want to vote, all of these reasons can be classified as psychological. Having the ability to vote allows people to speak up and use their voice. It also lets them stand up for what they believe in and be proud of their ideal candidate. Voting allows people to identify their morals and their values. It also lets them clearly choose a party. 

We may take strong differences in political preferences personally. 

Have you ever argued over politics with your family or friends? Most people would probably answer yes – absolutely! Discussing politics can show us some pretty drastic psychological differences we have with people we know. While this can lead to interesting conversations, it can also lead to arguments. Because politics are personal, most people are pretty passionate about the topic. Whether you’re discussing opinions regarding race, immigration, public health, environmental safety, national security, economical factors, or anything else…these can all be taken personally. 

Political advertisements are attempts to win us over psychologically. 

Political advertisements are a science in themselves. Political campaigns dedicate a large amount of their budget to advertising. Because of this, marketing consultants do their research and know what works for their clients. Political advertisements may include:

  • positive remarks about their candidate
  • negative remarks bashing an opponent
  • goals that the candidate has for the future
  • smiling faces of the candidate’s family

Political advertisements whether they’re on the television, on billboards, or on the radio all have one goal — to win voters over. It’s how they reach people every day, tug at their heart strings, get their name and face out there, and sway people’s votes. 

Differences in politics can break up relationships.

There are some specific topics that we are told to avoid when it comes to talking about ourselves. These include religion, sex, and you guessed it…politics. Many of us grew up believing it was inappropriate to talk about these things. But why is that the case? Well, perhaps it’s because we develop our political beliefs over what we deem important. Due to this ideology, our political beliefs are typically fueled by passion. If we find something important and personal and a friend or family member supports a political party that doesn’t feel the same, it’s hard to not take it personally. In this country, the quality of our lives revolves around the politicians that support the things we need. When we openly speak about politics, we are opening the door to the possibility of some stark psychological differences with the people we surround ourselves with. Because of this, politics may break up some relationships. 

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