Personality, Context, and the Roots of Autocratic Support in Latin America

01 September 2020, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Democracy is in danger, as fewer people seem to think of it as a desirable form of government. Current explanations based on economic development and governmental performance offer a narrow explanation for why some people reject democracy and subsequently support autocratic forms of governance. I offer a novel argument based on personality psychology. I argue that individuals who are low on the personality trait of openness – what I term closed personalities – are more supportive of autocracy. Closed personalities tend to seek political arrangements that repress diversity and enforce submission to authorities. Moreover, I hold that under conditions of crisis and civil disobedience threats, closed people activate their tendency to support autocracy. Using data from the 2010 AmericasBarometer and original survey experiments in Chile and Ecuador, I show how closed individuals tend to be highly supportive of autocracy and how conditions of crisis and civil disobedience affect closed personalities.


Latin America


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