The Effect of the Big Five Personality Traits on Support for Mask Mandates
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Amy Sentementes, Thesis Supervisor Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
Personality Mask Mandates Political Psychology Survey
Recent research around the public’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to understand how personality shapes policy preferences. In this thesis, I examine how the Big Five personality traits shape public support for mask mandates to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I construct a theoretical framework in which I describe how four key traits either influence individuals to support or oppose mask mandates. Combining existing literature about the Big Five personality traits with recent studies related to pandemic precautions, I argue that four of the five traits should affect opinions of mask mandates. Using nationally representative public opinion survey data, I construct several regression models that provide evidence suggesting that higher levels of the agreeableness trait contribute to increased support for mask mandates. Additionally, one of the models suggests that higher levels of openness to new experiences contributes to a greater emphasis on mask mandate policy in the 2022 midterm election. This study provides validation for the inclusion of personality traits in public policy research, suggesting that personality can account for variation in policy support even when controlling for partisanship.