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Analysis of Hillary Clinton's Display of Emotion in New Hampshire

Aubrey Immelman

January 7, 2008

Regarding the incident on Monday, Jan. 7, when Hillary Clinton teared up talking to undecided voters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I don’t believe Sen. Clinton’s show of emotion will have dire consequences on her campaign; in fact, it could even help her.

I say this because Hillary Clinton by all appearances simply choked up with emotion, rather than tearing up or visibly crying. This could help soften her image of being “hard” and without genuine feeling or empathy, which plays a major role in her low likeability ratings.

In this regard, I should note that in studies we conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, Hillary Clinton ranks second only to Rudy Giuliani in dominance and aggressiveness. While high dominance may play well for Giuliani, who has cultivated a “tough guy” image, in the case of Hillary Clinton it feeds into negative gender stereotypes about dominant, aggressive women.

On a secondary point, Hillary Clinton ranks highest among all of the presidential candidates in narcissism, in the top range of healthy narcissism (i.e., self-confidence, ambition), slightly below the limits of where it shades into pathological narcissism.

The characteristic mood of narcissistic leaders is social poise; they are self-composed, serene, and optimistic, and are typically imperturbable, unruffled, and cool and levelheaded under pressure. At slightly elevated levels (as in the case of Hillary Clinton), narcissistic leaders are insouciant; they manifest a general air of nonchalance, imperturbability, or feigned tranquility. They characteristically appear coolly unimpressionable or buoyantly optimistic, except when their narcissistic confidence is shaken or their goals are thwarted, at which time either rage, shame, or expressions of futility or hopelessness are briefly displayed. In short, when their sense of superiority is punctured or their ego deflated, their typical air of nonchalance and imperturbability may briefly turn to edgy irritability, annoyance, or feelings of emptiness, dejection, or humiliation. However, they easily regain their characteristic emotional composure.


Monday night (Jan. 7), on “Hannity and Colmes” (Fox News), Dick Morris said something to the effect that “There may well be a time, when the U.S. comes under attack, that Hillary Clinton may break down like that,” implying that Sen. Clinton is not fit to be president.

In my opinion, that is a grossly inaccurate assessment. Hillary Clinton’s personality profile suggests she may have brief lapses in her emotional composure when her ego is deflated, her goals thwarted, or when she is personally crossed – not when she faces tough personal challenges or crisis situations per se.

Related articles

Clinton's Tears Make Obama Backers Weep (by Tim Harper, The Toronto Star, Jan. 10, 2008)
Did New Hampshire – and possibly the U.S. presidential race – turn on Hillary Clinton's quavering voice and moist eyes, the now legendary moment when the Ice Queen melted?

Hillary Clinton Allows Raw Emotion to Show (by Tim Harper, The Toronto Star, Jan. 8, 2008)

Genuine or Calculating? It Doesn’t Matter Say Some Hillary Clinton Fans (by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos,, Dec. 21, 2007)

Yes, There’s Crying in Politics (by Nancy Benac, Associated Press, Dec. 19, 2007)

Page maintained by Aubrey Immelman

Last updated January 11, 2008