Openness & Latinos’ Attitudes



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The practice of using personality traits to explain mass behavior has become increasingly applied to the political science literature. Openness to experience is known to predict liberal social views among non-Hispanic whites. However, little research has gone into understanding how personality affects Latinos' social attitudes. In this project, I apply recent insights into personality to increase our understanding of political attitudes among the largest ethnic sub-group of Latinos. Specifically, I examine how psychological openness affects social attitudes, such as affirmative action, marijuana legalization, and the death penalty. I also investigate how political awareness facilitates the effects of openness. Using the 2012 American National Election Survey, I focus on individuals of Mexican origin (n=500/514) drawn from an oversample. The ANES includes questions regarding the Big Five personality traits, political knowledge, and social attitudes, allowing several tests of my hypotheses. I use linear regression to model social attitudes as a function of openness, political awareness, an interaction between these two traits, and a set of demographic controls. In the present analysis, we report three key findings. First, openness predicted more liberal attitudes on affirmative action and marijuana legalization, but not the death penalty. Second, although the effects of openness were larger for the highly politically aware, a significant interaction only emerged for marijuana legalization. The absence of a relationship between openness and the death penalty is surprising in light of the strong positive relationship among non-Hispanic whites. Future research should establish why openness fails to predict liberal views on the death penalty.