A Leader Who Sees the World as I Do: Voters Prefer Candidates Whose Statements Reveal Matching Social-Psychological Attitudes

Denise Baron, Benjamin Lauderdale, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Politicians are increasingly able to communicate their values, attitudes, and concerns directly to voters. Yet little is known about which of these signals resonate with voters and why. We employ a discrete choice experiment to investigate whether and which social-psychological attitudes predict how adult British voters respond to corresponding attitudinal signals communicated by candidates in hypothetical social media posts. For all attitudes studied, covering social feelings (trust, collective nostalgia), social perceptions (nationalism, populist sentiment), and social commitments (national identification, authoritarianism, egalitarianism), we find that participants are much more likely to vote for candidates who signal proximity to their own attitudinal position and less likely for candidates who signal opposing views. The strongest effects were observed for national identification, authoritarianism, and egalitarianism, indicating the importance of commitment to a shared group and to particular principles for distributing power and resources within and between groups. We further demonstrate that social-psychological attitudes are not acting as mere proxies for participants' past votes or left–right ideology. Our results extend adaptive followership theory to incorporate preferences concerning intragroup coordination and intergroup hierarchy, while highlighting the social-psychological dynamics of political communication that may transcend the concerns of particular election cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-916
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • adaptive followership
  • authoritarianism
  • discrete choice experiment
  • egalitarianism
  • intergroup relations
  • vote choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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