How Dispositional Empathy Influences Political Ambition

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Authors Scott Clifford, Justin H. Kirkland, Elizabeth N. Simas
Journal/Conference Name THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Political representation is fundamentally about advancing the needs and interests of others. Empathy—the ability to share others’ feelings and perspectives—ought to be a critical skill for effective representation. Yet the conflict, negativity, and competition that are endemic to politics may prevent empathetic individuals from seeking office. Using an original national survey with an oversample of people who have run for office, we explore how citizens’ dispositional empathy influences political ambition. We show that perspective-taking increases ambition, while personal distress depresses ambition. By analyzing feelings toward several different aspects of running for and holding political office, we show the mechanisms through which empathy affects ambition. Finally, we demonstrate that experimentally manipulated perceptions of campaign context moderate the effects of empathy on ambition. Our results provide new insight into how psychological factors interact with political context to shape ambition and...
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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