Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Who Are the “Dark” Politicians? Insights From Self-Reports of German State Parliament Candidates

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Abstract:  A growing body of studies is focusing on politicians’ personalities, as the personality of political elites has been shown to affect their behavior. Whereas most research uses the big five framework or HEXACO, only a few studies have been able to capture more “aversive,” “dark”—yet non-pathological—personality traits of politicians. However, these studies refer to top politicians; information on the distribution and the correlates of dark personality traits in the broad mass of politicians is still lacking. Moreover, information on dark personality traits in politicians is usually based on expert ratings; data using self-placement is missing. Based on data from six surveys with candidates running for German state elections in 2021 and 2022 (N[pooled data set] = 1,632), we, to the best of our knowledge, offer, for the first time, insights into politicians’ self-reported socially aversive personality traits. “Dark” personality traits are measured by the political elites aversive personality scale (PEAPS). Results show that German politicians exhibit moderate levels of aversive personality traits. In addition, the extent of candidates’ dark personalities is strongly negatively correlated with honesty–humility, agreeableness vs. anger, and extraversion, while associations with other basic personality traits are much weaker or insignificant. We also find that younger, more right-leaning, and more ideologically extreme candidates report higher levels of aversive personality.

Keywords:  aversive personality; candidate survey; dark personality; Germany; self-reports


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© Jürgen Maier, Mona Dian, Corinna Oschatz. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.