Link between narcissism and right-wing populism uncovered

Link between narcissism and right-wing populism uncovered

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Certain narcissists are more prone to right-wing populist tendencies

A connection between narcissistic personality and right-wing populism was uncovered in a new study. According to the researchers, a certain form of narcissism tends to support right-wing extremist parties.

A narcissistic personality disorder is a “profound personality disorder with a lack of self-esteem and a strong sensitivity to criticism. These characteristics alternate with a striking self-admiration and exaggerated vanity and an exaggerated self-confidence towards the outside, ”explains the association Pro Psychotherapie e.V. on the portal“ ”. A study has now uncovered a connection between narcissism and right-wing populism.

Psychological components can play a crucial role

In many European countries, including Germany, right-wing populist right-wing parties have been very popular in recent years. According to a statement by the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, a new study shows that this is not only due to current developments such as the so-called refugee crisis, but that part of the electorate is more prone to right-wing populist tendencies due to its personality structure.

In this way, psychological components can also play a decisive role in political attitudes and voting decisions. "We found that a certain form of narcissism, which goes hand in hand with devaluation, is more likely to support right-wing extremist parties," explains Dr. Carl Berning, Institute for Political Science at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

Together with Dr. Sabrina Mayer from the University of Duisburg-Essen and Dr. David Johann from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) examined Berning's effects on narcissism.

Their results were published in the "European Journal of Personality".

Authoritarian attitudes and xenophobia

The study shows that voters who have a high level of narcissistic rivalry as a personality trait, i.e. who devalue others in order to upgrade themselves, tend to vote for right-wing populist parties.

According to the researchers, narcissism does not influence voting behavior directly, but rather through attitudes. That is, narcissism changes attitudes and these then affect the preference for right-wing populists. The scientific analysis, however, finds no significant connection between an increased personality need for admiration and the choice of right-wing radical parties.

Regarding the results, the scientist remarked that previous election research did not sufficiently take into account the personality of the voters. Because although central aspects of narcissism and key elements of right-wing extremist parties are similar, such as the quest for superiority, the relationship between narcissism and support for right-wing radical populist parties has not yet been analyzed.

The author suggests that this be taken into account in future studies. "We know that xenophobia increases the tendency towards right-wing populist ideologies, but the attitude does not come from a vacuum, but there are people who tend to do so because of their personality structure," said Berning.

It is therefore important to take into account that the individual personality can explain an election decision beyond the social demographic conditions.

Two dimensions of narcissistic attitudes

Mayer, Berning and Johann examined narcissism as a multi-dimensional construct for their study. For a few years now, psychology has differentiated between two dimensions of narcissistic attitudes:

Narcissism with an increased need for admiration or self-admiration on the one hand and narcissistic rivalry or devaluation on the other.

According to the information, narcissistic personalities that demand admiration can be charismatic and crowd around. Narcissistic rivalry, on the other hand, devalues ​​others to feel superior, and is often accompanied by aggressive, hostile, and selfish behavior.

For the survey, the researchers were able to access representative data from the GESIS panel with around 2,800 test subjects. When asked which party they would vote for if there were elections next Sunday, a total of 12.7 percent of the respondents at the time of the poll in autumn 2016 said they would vote for the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

In order to determine narcissistic personality traits, the participants were asked to classify certain statements, for example "I gain great strength from the knowledge that I am a very special person" or "I want my rivals to lose". (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz: connection between narcissistic personality and right-wing populism uncovered (accessed: March 11, 2020), Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
  • Sabrina J. Mayer, Carl C. Berning, David Johann: The Two Dimensions of Narcissistic Personality and Support for the Radical Right: The Role of Right-wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation and Anti ‐ immigrant Sentiment; in: European Journal of Personality, (published: 09.01.2020), European Journal of Personality
  • Pro Psychotherapie e.V .: Narcissism, (accessed: March 11, 2020),

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