Researchers Examine Kerry's Personality, Compare Him to Bush and Other Presidents on Leadership Traits


HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Despite lacking warmth and charisma, John Kerry has the personality of a successful president, conclude psychologists who have studied the factors that make for greatness in past chief executives. Intelligence and eight personality traits distinguish successful presidents, like Lincoln, Washington and FDR, from unsuccessful ones, like Harding, Taft, and Grant. Having recently published their findings, the researchers then turned their attention to Bush and Kerry and have posted their findings on their website.

Consistent with public perceptions, Kerry is moderately introverted, but still high on some extroverted traits like Dominance, Excitement-Seeking, and Activity level. He scores low on Warmth, and Positive Emotions. Regarding likeability, Kerry has further problems - he also scores low on Altruism (tries to be polite, unselfish) and Modesty. Like John F. Kennedy, whom Kerry most resembles among former presidents, he appears low in Straightforwardness and Dutifulness, and looks beyond traditional sources of moral authority when making decisions involving values. Bush also scores very low on the first two traits but in the opposite direction on the latter: He is quite possibly the most conservative of all presidents to date.

Low scores on Straightforwardness and Dutifulness likely contribute to perceptions that Kerry will say or do anything to get elected, and they potentially raise the character issue. But as indicated above, this cuts both parties about equally. Further, the focus on character may be misplaced. Analyzing our data, Professor Deniz Ones of the University of Minnesota found "character" to be unrelated to historians' ratings of presidential greatness. In other words, successful presidents were no more likely to be Dutiful than unsuccessful presidents. And she found that presidents low on Straightforwardness are rated as better presidents than those who are more honest. While the public may expect a president to tell the truth to them, the ability to deceive one's enemies may be an important survival tool - FDR being a prime example. Honest Jimmy Carter had a relatively unsuccessful presidency, despite his numerous other personal assets for the job.

Dr. Ones also identified eight more personal qualities of a successful president, which are shown in the following table. Bush's and Kerry's scores are compared to the scores of all previous presidents through Clinton. The candidate's score that is higher (and more desirable in a president) is presented in bold and underlined - that candidate is better suited for the presidency on that particular trait.

 Success Factor                      Bush               Kerry
 Set high goals, works hard          Low(1)             Average
  and makes sacrifices
  to meet them

 Well-informed, good judgment,       Very Low           Average

 Activity Level                      Average            Average(2)

 Rated Intelligence/Intellectual     Very Low           Average
  Depth & Breadth

 Capable under stress                Average            Average

 Assertive, dominant                 High               High

 Capable of being deceitful          High               High

 Enthusiastic, humorous              High               Average

 Sympathetic, compassionate          Low                Average

 (1) Almost qualifies for "Very Low."
 (2) Almost qualifies for "High."

Kerry appears better suited for the presidency on four of the nine traits, Bush on one. When the scores for the nine traits are added up and compared to past presidents, Kerry scores near the 70th percentile, Bush below the 20th.

The authors note that the scores for Bush and Kerry were obtained through a different process than the rest of their study. For past presidents, they were able to persuade several biographers of most presidents to complete their extensive personality questionnaire. For Kerry and Bush, the psychologists studied Bush and Kerry themselves, primarily using respected biographies, and completed the questionnaires. Three researchers completed the questionnaire for Bush, four for Kerry. They hope to eventually obtain biographers' ratings to compare with their ratings, but believe that the current ones are the best such data currently available. The researchers consider themselves apolitical and one (Dr. Immelman) has previously published an article defending Bush's intelligence based on his reported SAT scores (

The authors' findings for Bush and previous presidents are reported in Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents, published by Brasseys (August 2004). More information is available at This site has additional material and articles regarding Kerry's personality. Lastly, site visitors can take a free, professionally-developed personality test to see if they have the right stuff to be president.


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