Over the years, I have written in the SST1 Newsletter on personality type and presidential politics. The basic theme has been that the more Extraverted candidate wins.
Our first analysis goes back to 1996 when our SST® (Successful Selling to Type) class chose to study the preferences of the two candidates, Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, in one of their debates. It was fascinating because they were as different as possible on the four Jungian scales. Dole (whom we read as ISTJ) appeared stiff and uncomfortable. Conversely, Clinton (whom we saw as an ENFP) was warm and charismatic. He seemed to be able to quickly connect with the audience. Remember, “I feel your pain.”?
In the 2000 election, pitting Al Gore versus George Bush, Extraversion and Introversion again seemed to play a prominent role in how the candidates behaved and were perceived by the voters. Only this time, it was the Republican Bush who was the Extraverted candidate and Democrat Gore who was Introverted. While Bush looked comfortable and energized by people, you may recall that Gore was described as being “wooden”.
In 2004, there was a headline in Knight Ridder papers that read: Voters Don’t Like Bush’s Iraq War or Kerry’s Personality. The article went on to
describe Kerry as cool and private. Once again, the more Extraverted Bush
Eight years later, a recent New York Times article caught my attention, Romney
Supporters Yearning for Personal Connection” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/us/politics/romney-supporters-yearning-for-personal-connection. One of Romney’s aides describes him as having a “natural reticence” to opening up. Indeed, at leastto this observer, he appears awkward whenever he tries and says things like: I like the height of the trees in Michigan or we like American cars –my wife drives two Cadillacs.
If you are wondering about our analysis in 2008, we saw both candidates as
Introverted. But, Obama appears more skilled at adapting his natural INTP style
to connect with his audience.
We certainly are not suggesting that it is all about personality and issues like
the economy and national security don’t matter. Indeed, we believe the issues
should matter the most and personality preferences have nothing to do with
capability. But, just as buyers function on two tracks (content and connection)
so too do voters. As we move toward November 2012, it will be interesting to
view the politics through a personality lens and see which candidate connects
with voters: the cool “No Drama” Obama or Mitt “I like grits” Romney.
1 SST® (Successful Selling to Type) is a personality based
sales method based on Carl Jung’s theory, as is the MBTI or Myers Briggs Type