Researcher identifies presidential’ traits

Jim Martyka

President Clinton is a “good ol’ boy,” who is low on character, integrity and self-discipline, according to a study by a University professor and her colleagues. But the president scored high on intelligence and extroversion.
University professor of psychology Deniz Ones, and Houston psychologists Steve Rubenzer and Tom Faschingbauer rated the personality traits of the nation’s 41 presidents and Bob Dole through the polling of leading historians and biographers. The researchers ranked the presidents and Dole in several personality categories, and grouped them into clusters based on rankings — such as “Good Ol’ Boys” and “Introverts.”
Other “good ol’ boys” included Andrew Jackson and Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Over the course of the few years we conducted the study, we found several important variables that were not only important, but essential for the success of a president,” Ones said.
Faschingbauer said in an article in the American Psychological Association Monitor that the study was done to better educate voters by comparing recent presidential candidate characteristics with those of past presidents.
Ones, who started at the University in the fall, has spent a large part of her career studying personality traits and how they relate to job performance. A specialist in industrial psychology, Ones has also studied the importance of testing for job hiring.
“I’ve been working for a long time researching what makes people successful,” Ones said, “so I was especially curious on what makes for a successful president.”
The unique aspect of this study, Ones said, was the method used to collect data.
“We wanted to get the exact personality of every United States president,” she said. “How we did this was something that hadn’t been done before. We talked to the people who knew the presidents almost better than themselves — the experts.”
The researchers talked with biographers and historians of each president, and had them fill out questionnaires exploring each aspect of their respective president’s personality. They also talked with people who study the role of the president in general. They linked these two sets of data to come up with their results.
Ones said the study reveals the three characteristics that are most important to the success of a president. One is openness to experience, which includes the ability to listen to ideas other than their own. The others are conscientiousness and extroversion, which includes how positive and assertive a president is.
Clinton ranked third in extroversion and tenth in openness to experience, a category in which Dole was ranked 30th. Dole also ranked second only to Richard Nixon in neuroticism, a category that reflects anxiety, tension and a lack of a calm and relaxed demeanor.
Besides the three most-important characteristics, the researchers found other significant traits of successful presidents, including intelligence, agreeableness and overall character. Clinton ranked ninth in intelligence, but only 37th in character.