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Great Presidents are Stubborn and Disagreeable (part 2)

Great Presidents are Stubborn and Disagreeable  > Page 1, 2

The authors looked especially closely at the personalities of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These presidents are consistently rated as two of the greatest, but they seem to have very little in common. They reported that Washington scored very high on conscientiousness but scored lower than most modern Americans on openness, extraversion and agreeableness. He also scored low on vulnerability, suggesting an ability to tolerate stress and adversity. Washington scored low on openness to values, indicating that he was traditional in his morals and relied on leadership from church and religious figures. He also scored high on achievement striving, competence, self-discipline and deliberation.

Abraham Lincoln scored highest on depression, which is consistent with historical reports that he was prone to periods of deep depression.   Lincoln scored high on openness and low on straightforwardness. "He was willing to bend the truth," said the authors, "although he was usually seen as honest and well intentioned." 

Rubenzer and his colleagues found that almost all presidents (not just the great ones) could be classified into eight "presidential types", with some belonging to more than one group. The types include:

  • Dominators: Nixon, Andrew Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, Jackson, Polk, Teddy Roosevelt & Arthur
  • Introverts: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Nixon, Hoover, Coolidge, Buchanan, Wilson & Benjamin Harrison
  • Good Guys: Hayes, Taylor, Eisenhower, Tyler, Fillmore, Cleveland, Ford & Washington
  • Innocents: Taft, Harding & Grant
  • Actors: Ronald Reagan, Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison, Bill Clinton & Franklin Pierce
  • Maintainers: McKinley, Bush, Ford & Truman
  • Philosophers: Garfied, Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Carter & Hayes
  • Extraverts: FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan, William Harrison, Harding, Jackson & LBJ

One interesting trend that the authors discovered is a trend toward extraversion in recent presidents.  This trend makes sense, given the influence of media such as radio and television in recent elections.  Introverted presidential candidates are less likely to be able to use the media effectively enough to be elected.  History will tell whether this media influence will allow future presidential greatness to emerge.


Rubenzer,  Steve; Ones, Deniz; and Faschingbauer, Tom. "Personality Traits of U.S. Presidents", Presented at the Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 2000.

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