Implicit Candidate-Trait Associations in Political Campaigns

Aleksander Jan Ksiazkiewicz, Joseph Vitriol, Christina Farhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the study of political attitudes has incorporated implicit processes in its theoretical models, the predominant approach to candidate-trait perception focuses exclusively on explicit processes. Our novel, dual-process approach to candidate perception sees voters as holding both conscious, explicit impressions of candidate traits and automatic, implicit candidate-trait associations that cannot be measured using traditional self-report techniques. We examine implicit candidate-trait associations for the first time using data from a three-wave online panel conducted in the last month of the 2012 U.S. presidential election. First, we demonstrate that implicit candidate-trait associations exist. Second, we show that implicit associations of warmth and competence with the candidates predict explicit candidate evaluations, economic evaluations, and vote choice, above and beyond conventional political science controls and explicit trait perceptions. Finally, we find that these effects are strongest among nonpartisans and partisans with conflicted feelings about their party's nominee. We suggest future directions for implicit political cognition research, including trait perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-195
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • IAT
  • candidate traits
  • implicit
  • vote choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Implicit Candidate-Trait Associations in Political Campaigns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this