Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
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Personality Profile Reveals Outgoing, Adventurous Qualities in Bushs Character
ST. JOSEPH, Minn., July 29, 1999 A psychological study of Texas governor George W. Bush, presented at the annual scientific meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology in Amsterdam last week, reports the finding that George W. Bushs major personality strengths in his presidential bid are the important political skills of charisma and interpersonality, which should enable him to connect with voters and maintain his early lead in the race.
The study, by associate professor of psychology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint Johns University, Aubrey Immelman, also pinpoints some personality-based challenges for a potential Bush presidency. Among these is a propensity for a superficial grasp of complex issues, a tendency to be easily bored by routine, a predisposition to act impulsively, and a predilection to favor personal connections, friendship, and loyalty over competence in staffing decisions and political appointments all of which could render a Bush administration vulnerable to errors of judgment or ethical misconduct.
Specifically, Immelman determined that Governor Bushs personality was an amalgam of the "outgoing" and "adventurous" personality styles. Outgoing leaders are gregarious, confident in their social abilities, skilled in the art of social influence, and have a charming, engaging personal style that makes people like them. Although they have a tendency to become easily bored, especially when faced with repetitive and mundane tasks, their enthusiasms often prove effective in energizing and motivating others. According to Immelman, these outgoing qualities which Bush shares with President Bill Clinton are diametrically opposed to Vice President Al Gores more introverted disposition; in short, the likely Republican and Democratic presidential nominees offer voters a clear choice between two highly distinctive personal styles.
Immelman presented his studies of President Clinton and Vice President Gore at meetings of the International Society of Political Psychology in 1996 and 1998. He believes the most interesting finding to emerge from his current study is the prominence of Gov. Bushs "adventurous" traits, which Immelman describes as "a tempered version" of Minnesota governor Jesse Venturas core personality characteristics. In his report, Immelman notes that adventurous personalities are characterized by strong independence strivings, an ambition to excel, competitiveness, and often by sensation-seeking and risk-taking behaviors. These personalities also have a tendency to be overconfident, and their trademark charm may be somewhat glib and superficial. Immelman believes that the Republican front-runners adventurous traits account for what Gov. Bush has characterized as the "so-called wild, exotic days" of his youth now tempered by age, experience, lifestyle modifications, and political ambition, according to Immelman.
In his report, Immelman cautions that an accurate measure of George W. Bush should take into account the joint effect of gregarious and adventurous facets of the candidates personality. In this regard, he points to the work of personality theorist Theodore Millon, which suggest that this particular blend typically makes for independent-minded individuals who "exhibit a strong need for autonomy and self-determination." They "seek to do things their own way and are willing to take the consequences of doing so." In addition they "dislike following the same routine day after day" and tend to be more expedient than conscientious. Implicit in these traits is a risk of acting "impulsively and irresponsibly."
Finally, Immelman reports that his findings, in conjunction with political psychologist Dean Keith Simontons empirically established dimensions of presidential style, can be employed to make some tentative predictions for a Bush presidency. Generally, George W. Bushs leadership style will likely be more charismatic than deliberative. Specifically, the outgoing Bush will stay in touch with public opinion, actively refine his public image, skillfully maintain his popularity, and be activist and energetic rather than cautious or conservative in his role as chief executive. A less deliberative Bush runs the risk of failing at times fully to appreciate the implications of his decisions, display sufficient depth of comprehension, or effectively weigh alternatives and long-term consequences of policy initiatives. Furthermore, an outgoing, relatively unreflective President Bush may not keep himself as thoroughly informed as he should (for example, by reading briefings or background reports), may force decisions to be made prematurely, may lose sight of his limitations, and may tend to sacrifice effective policy for political success.
Immelman has been a member of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint Johns University faculty since 1991. He has conducted extensive research in the area of political personality, including studies of President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, independent counsel Kenneth Starr, likely Senate candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. Professor Immelman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College of Saint Benedict for women has a unique coordinate partnership with Saint Johns University for men. Together, the colleges challenge students to live balanced lives of learning, work, leadership, and service in a changing world.
Page maintained by Aubrey Immelman, USPP director and Suzanne Wetzel, USPP contributor
Last modified: 04/16/2000