Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Second Advisor

Joseph Jupille

Third Advisor

Sara Hobolt

Fourth Advisor

David Leblang

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Wolak

Abstract

A superordinate identity encompassing `us' and `them' under the umbrella of `we' improves intergroup relations and bolsters support for the political system. But given humans' innate preference for the familiar and their subconscious, cognitive biases against anything different, why would anyone identify with the superordinate group in the first place? I argue that personality is an important determinant of identification. Chapter 2 reviews existing literature on political-territorial identity alternatives, superordinate identification, and personality. It then justifies theoretical expectations regarding when and how the `Big Five' personality traits should operate for one's sense of self. Chapter 3 underscores the importance of studying the determinants of superordinate identification by demonstrating its effect on outgroup attitudes. Using cross-national Eurobarometer data from all 27 European Union (EU) member states, I find those identifying as European are significantly more friendly towards immigrants--an effect that is amplified under conditions of cross-cutting cleavages and where country length of EU membership is greatest. Chapter 4 tests the basic relationship between personality and identification using original survey data from the United Kingdom, where EU integration has increased the salience and feasibility of the superordinate `European' identity option in addition to a subordinate national one. As predicted, openness and extraversion increase identification with Europe while agreeableness decreases it. This suggests certain predispositions prompt some to be more open than others to seeing themselves in superordinate terms. Chapter 5 delves into deeper tests of personality's causal impact. I find that risk aversion, objective political knowledge, and ideology mediate much of personality's effect. No moderating effect emerges between the Big Five traits and the perceived influence of EU institutions, suggesting that the EU is capable of increasing superordinate identification equally across all personality types. Chapter 6 offers concluding remarks and extensions for future work. Altogether, my results speak to the general psychological processes underlying superordinate political-territorial identification. A major implication is that some individuals inherently experience cognitive difficulty extending their sense of self because particular traits--which develop early in life and persist relatively unchanged over time--may affect the extent to which a superordinate identity is perceived to conflict with preexisting attachments.

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