Who do you think is more likely to be a narcissist: Republicans or Democrats?
The answer, like most political differences, is tricky. A new study suggests that one party does not necessarily house more narcissists than the other, but they do house different types of narcissists.
First, a quick recap. Most people know that narcissism refers to people who are self-centered, vain, and have an inflated sense of their qualities and achievements. But what most don’t realize is that narcissism is a multi-faceted trait. It takes on many forms, and some of these forms are harder to detect than others.
One maladaptive facet of narcissism is called entitlement. People high in entitlement believe they are more valuable and more inherently deserving of benefits and special treatments. They insist on getting the respect they think they are due and are shocked and frustrated when others don’t give them what they think they deserve.
A second maladaptive facet is called exhibitionism. People high in exhibitionism love being the center of attention. They want people to notice them and crave public recognition for their views, opinions and values.
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Now it is important to note that these facets of entitlement and exhibitionism can be expressed at the collective level as well as the individual level. This means that people high in entitlement not only believe they personally deserve more positive outcomes, but also that their group deserves such outcomes. And those high in exhibitionism want their group’s opinions and values to be publicly recognized, as well as their personal ones.
Okay, now back to politics. To see how these narcissistic facets may differ across party lines, a team of researchers examined the personality profiles of 750 American citizens just a few days before the 2016 presidential election.
According to Schröder-Abé and Fatfouta, one way to answer these questions is by measuring narcissists’ implicit and explicit self-perceptions.1 The current study was conducted to examine implicit and explicit self-views in communal narcissists. Communal narcissism was associated with explicit communal-self views only.
The results were intriguing.
First, despite what some political pundits like to believe, liberals and conservatives showed equal levels of narcissism. So one party does not hold a monopoly on self-centered views. But what these researchers did find was that how such views were expressed did differ across the two parties.
When it came to entitlement, those who were high in this facet of narcissism were much more likely to hold conservative political views. They were more likely to oppose a tax raise, gun control, and policies that would allow refugees or immigrants to enter the country. Essentially, these “Red Narcissists” believe their group is more deserving of certain benefits and rights than other groups. And when they see other groups—be they immigrants, racial minorities, or the poor—seeming to get a bigger piece of the pie than their own group, they push back hard. This focus on group entitlement seems to accurately capture the populist movement that has swept the nation (and the world) in recent years.
Julia Roberts (mom to twins Hazel and Phinnaeus): “I try to call my mother, Betty, with more regularity because I think, What if Hazel didn’t call me for two weeks? I’m able to see her mothering now from a different vantage point.”
And what about exhibitionism? Interestingly, the exact opposite pattern emerged for this facet of narcissism. People high in exhibitionism tended to hold liberal political views on taxes, gun control and immigration. However, unlike their red brethren, these “Blue Narcissists” demonstrated a much stronger identification with their own political party.
What does that mean? It suggests that although Red Narcissists are not more likely than other conservatives to identify with the Republican party, Blue Narcissists are more likely than other liberals to strongly identify with the Democratic party. Put simply, Blue Narcissists feel a need to tout their political affiliation and display their left-leaning positions more strongly than do Red Narcissists.
Intriguingly, it is this last distinction that may explain why the media’s predictions for the 2016 election was so wrong. Liberal narcissists appear to be more vocal about their political commitments. They’re more likely to wear a Hillary T-shirt or slap a “Feel the Burn” bumper sticker on their car. But such group displays may lead to a false sense of security for the Democratic party come election time. On the other hand, conservative narcissists don’t crave public recognition for their values to the same extent. So while their political convictions may be just as strong, they are far less obvious.
Keep in mind what grandmoms always say. Children are not yours, they are only lent to you for a time. In those fleeting years, do your best to help them grow up to be good people.
To learn more about the psychology of politics, check out my “Red Brain, Blue Brain” blog at www.redbrainbluebrain.com