A new YouGov survey asked Americans whether they identify as introverts or extroverts and whether being introverted or extroverted is an advantage in a variety of social situations and jobs. The findings suggest that Americans believe extroverts are at an advantage in many settings including workplaces, schools, parties, and on dates. The poll also sheds light on whether people believe these traits are learned or innate, and whether the theory that “opposites attract” applies to introvert-extrovert relationships.
Among Americans, the largest share (39%) say they are introverts, with 9% who are completely introverted and 29% who are more introverted than extroverted. Another 31% say they’re about an equal mix of both, and 22% consider themselves extroverted: 7% completely so and 15% more extroverted than introverted.
According to both introverts and extroverts, it’s an extrovert’s world.
When asked whether introverts or extroverts have more advantages in a variety of settings including parties, schools, and workplaces, Americans -— both introverted and extroverted — are more likely to see an advantage for extroverts than for introverts.
When it comes to parties, 70% of U.S. adult citizens think extroverts have more advantages, 10 times as many as the share who say introverts have more advantages (7%). Introverts (79%) and extroverts (79%) are equally likely to say extroverts have the advantage here.
Majorities of Americans also believe that extroverts have more advantages than introverts in the realm of public speaking (70%, vs. 8% who say introverts have more advantages), meeting a new group of people (69% vs. 8%), and meeting someone new one-on-one (50% vs. 14%).
Americans are more likely to believe that extroverts make better leaders than to believe that introverts do, at 52% vs. 9%. About one-quarter (26%) say there’s no difference.
People also believe extroverts make better colleagues (25% vs. 13% who say introverts do), better friends (24% vs. 14%), and better romantic partners (20% vs. 14%). That said, larger shares say there’s no difference on who will make a better colleague (47%), friend (50%), or romantic partner (46%).
Extroverts are especially likely to believe that extroverts in general are better leaders (62%), friends (39%), romantic partners (32%), and colleagues (36%). Introverts aren’t likely to believe that introverts are better than extroverts in any of these categories, but they are more likely than extroverts to believe there’s no difference.
Americans also are more likely to believe that extroverts tend to be better than introverts at being salespeople (72%, vs. 7% who say introverts are better at this occupation), performers (63% vs. 6%), lawyers (49% vs. 11%), teachers (49% vs. 9%), athletes (38% vs. 9%), and doctors (29% vs. 14%). The gap narrows for therapists: 26% think extroverts tend to be better at this occupation while 23% think introverts are better at it.
But there are a couple of careers included in the poll that Americans believe introverts are generally more suited for than extroverts: artists (37% say introverts make better artists, vs 20% who say extroverts) and engineers (31% vs 17%).
Extroverts are especially likely to believe extroverts tend to make better teachers (68%) and athletes (53%).
Which words do Americans associate with introverts and extroverts? The adjectives most associated with introverts — among the ones offered in the poll — are quiet (65%), shy (62%), reserved (60%), and alone (44%). Extroverts are widely considered to be talkative (64%), outgoing (61%), social (59%), and friendly (48%). Adjectives associated with each group by similar shares of Americans include respected, successful, and generous.
How do introverts and extroverts view the other group? The words introverts are most likely to associate with extroverts are talkative (75%), outgoing (73%), social (71%), loud (55%), and friendly (48%). Extroverts are most likely to describe introverts as shy (62%), quiet (59%), reserved (54%), alone (47%), and calm (34%). Both groups are about equally likely to describe the other as independent and respected.
Given that Americans tend to think extroverts have the advantage in most scenarios polled about, it’s not surprising to learn that many introverts wish they were more extroverted, with 56% saying they wish this at least sometimes: 38% say sometimes, 16% say often, and 2% always. Not every introvert wants to change: 25% of introverts say they rarely wish they were more extroverted, and 15% never do. And in response to a separate question, 17% wish they were more introverted at least some of the time.
Extroverts are less likely to say they wish they were more introverted, though 35% say they wish it at least sometimes: 26% wish it sometimes, 5% often, and 4% always. But the majority (64%) of extroverts say they rarely (32%) or never (32%) wish they were more introverted. And 49% of extroverts, in response to a separate question, say they wish to be more extroverted at least some of the time.
What about people who consider themselves an equal mix of extroverted and introverted? Most (63%) of this group say that they wish they were more extroverted at least sometimes. Far fewer (36%) wish they were more introverted at least sometimes.
The question of whether a person is simply wired a certain way or is a product of their environment — in other words, nature vs. nurture — is interesting to consider in the context of introversion and extroversion.
Americans are more likely to believe that people develop a more introverted or extroverted personality because of their environment (44%) than believe that people are born with these traits (33%). Self-described extroverts and introverts have different opinions on this. About half (52%) of extroverts believe people develop these traits because of their environment while fewer (39%) introverts say this. Introverts are equally as likely (39%) to say people are born with these characteristics.
It’s possible that a person’s parents play a role in whether a person grows up to be more introverted or extroverted. Among introverts, 33% say their parents were introverted. Another 44% say their parents were about an equal mix of introverted and extroverted, while 20% of introverts say they had extroverted parents.
Among extroverts, the equivalent tends to be true: They're more likely to have extroverted parents than introverted ones. They’re more likely to have extroverted parents (52%). Another 35% of extroverts say their parents are about an equal mix of extroverted and introverted, and just 10% of extroverts have introverted parents.
Does the idea of “opposites attract” apply to relationships between introverts and extroverts? Not especially. Among introverts who have a romantic partner, 39% say their partner is extroverted. Another 23% say their partner is about an equal mix of extroverted and introverted, and 35% say their partner is also introverted.
Among extroverts in relationships, 32% have a partner who is introverted while 29% have a partner who is an equal mix. Another 38% say their partner is also an extrovert.
— Carl Bialik, Linley Sanders, and Taylor Orth contributed to this article
Methodology: This poll was conducted online on March 14 - 16, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.
Image: Adobe Stock (Prostock-studio)