The Centrality of Political
Personality to Political
Suitability, a matter
of Charisma?
La centralidad de la
personalidad política en
la idoneidad política:
¿Un asunto de Carisma?
Philippe De Vries
University of Antwerp
Christ’l De Landtsheer
University of Ghent
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The Centrality of Political
Personality to Political
Suitability, a matter
of Charisma?
La centralidad de la
personalidad política en
la idoneidad política:
¿Un asunto de Carisma?
This article investigates the role of personality perception by voters in their impression of political suitability.
What are the personality traits of political leaders whose perception contributes most to the electorates
impression of their political suitability? This study relies upon the central political psychology axiom that
political structures are shaped and channeled by peoples personalities (Winter, 2003). This axiom implies
that personality factors both at the elite (leaders) and the mass level (the electorate) are believed to inuen-
ce the arousal and weighting of the leaders goals and preferences. It also follows from this axiom that the
personality of the political candidate is considerably aecting how the candidate (at elite level) and how the
citizens-electors (at mass level) respond or resist to cues, symbols and signs. Besides, studies on leadership
from organizational research and management understated the role played by the personality in charisma
ever since Weber (1922, 1968) launched the concept (“charismatic authority”). This charisma of the political
leader would nevertheless only be activated in relation to the audience (e.g. Homan, 2009, p.232-233).
This article focuses on the assumption that the voter- audience is considered to be inuenced, even stee-
red by central-so-called politically relevant- personality impressions about the candidate. The article rstly
presents a theory review on the role of personality in political success. Secondly, a method is presented that
allows assessing personality as a success factor, and which is entitled “the political personality index” (e.g.
De Landtsheer, Thijssen & Immelman, 2004; De Vries, 2007). A third, empirical part of the article summarizes
the results of the application of the “the political personality index” on a sample with 1171 individuals. From
the results can be concluded that a substantial part of the impression of political suitability is based on the
perception of the candidate’s personal charisma. The interpretation of the presumed politically relevant per-
sonality patterns as furthered by this political psychology approach further indicates that contextual factors
deserve more attention.
Este artículo investiga el papel de la percepción de la personalidad por parte de los votantes en su impresión
acerca de la idoneidad potica de los candidatos. ¿Cles son los puntos en la personalidad de los líderes polí-
ticos cuya percepción contribuye en mayor medida a la impresión del electorado sobre su idoneidad política?
Este estudio se basa en el axioma de la psicología política central que deende que las estructuras poticas
toman forma y se canalizan por medio de la personalidad de cada individuo (Winter, 2003). Dicho axioma
implica la creencia de que los factores de personalidad tanto en la élite (los líderes) como a nivel de la masa
(el electorado) inuencian la manera en la que surgen y toman importancia los objetivos y preferencias de los
deres. Ades, partiendo de este axioma se deduce que la personalidad del candidato político afecta con-
siderablemente a la manera en que el candidato (a nivel de élite) y los ciudadanos-electores (a nivel de masa)
responden o se resisten a estímulos, mbolos y signos. Estudios en liderazgo realizados como parte de la in-
vestigacn organizacional y de gestión subestiman también el papel que juega la personalidad en el carisma
a partir del momento en que Weber (1922, 1968) lanzó el concepto (“autoridad carismática”). Este carisma del
der político sin embargo sería únicamente activado en relacn con la audiencia (ej. Homan, 2009, p.232-233).
Este artículo se centra en la suposición de que se considera que el votante-la audiencia están inuencia-
dos, incluso dirigidos por impresiones acerca de la personalidad del candidato supuestamente centrales y
políticamente relevantes. El artículo presenta en primer lugar un resumen de la teoría sobre el papel de la
personalidad en el éxito político. En segundo lugar, se presenta un método que permite evaluar la personali-
dad como un factor de éxito y que se denomina “índice de personalidad política (ej. De Landtsheer, Thijssen
& Immelman, 2004; De Vries, 2007). En tercer lugar, la parte empírica del artículo que resume los resultados
de la aplicación del “índice de personalidad política en una muestra formada por 1171 individuos. De los
resultados podemos concluir que una parte sustancial de la impresión de idoneidad política se basa en la
percepción del carisma personal del candidato. La interpretación de los que se supone son patrones de per-
sonalidad políticamente relevantes, tal y como se promueve en este enfoque de la psicología política, añade
más información que indica que los factores contextuales merecen un estudio más detallado.s.
Clasicación JEL:
M37, M38
Palabras clave:
Personalidad política,
idoneidad política,
liderazgo político,
carisma político
JEL Classication:
M37, M38
Key words:
Political personality,
political suitability,
political leadership,
political charisma
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Charisma may be the dream of political candi-
dates, and the selling of it the ultimate goal of
any political spin doctor, charisma nevertheless
stays at all times a highly unpractical romantic
scientific concept. Charismatic leadership con-
stitutes a type of political domination whereby
individuals are made to believe that their leader
possesses special legitimizing, divine powers
(e.g. Hoffmann, 2009). For the ordinary political
candidate besides, charisma is out of reach be-
cause it resembles magic and it cannot be learned
or achieved by hard labor. It is a mistake to as-
sume that the consequences for society of char-
ismatic leadership tend to be favorable. Charis-
matic leaders may, depending upon their
personality, be able to inspire the masses to al-
truism, but they can as well push them in the
direction of massacres. Charismatic personalities
far too often become authoritarian politicians or
the leaders of an authoritarian state. This article
does not intend to unravel the impression com-
ponents of the magic or divine leader (Castro,
Martin Luther King, Hitler, Stalin, J.F.K., Chavez)
but it contents it at examining votersperception
of personality characteristics that, in a demo-
cratic system, contribute to the perception of
political suitability. While “personalityis seen as
crucial to charismatic leadership (Hoffmann,
2009) it may be at least as important for the
“usualpolitical candidates for public office. The
modernization of the political media landscape
has made personalization of politics the central
issue in political campaigning. It is therefore
more than time to test the central role of (par-
ticular) personality characteristics in voters’
perception of political suitability.
This article will firstly present a theory frame
for the study of personality perception in politics
(“the centrality of political personality”). After
that, a second section will detail the research
methodology to investigate personality in rela-
tion to political suitability (“the political person-
ality index”). The third section (“the winning
candidate personality”) finally, will describe the
results of the empirical study and will come to a
The centrality of political personality
The prominent political psychologist Winter
(2003, p. 110) wrote: “One of the central axioms
of political psychology is that political structures
are shaped and channeled by peoplespersonali-
ties, that is by their individually patterned inte-
gration of processes of perception, memory,
judgment, goal-seeking, and emotional expres-
sions and regulations.” A clear and univocal
definition of what political personality encom-
passes is nonetheless still missing. In their at-
tempt to map the different scientific approaches
Allport and Odbert (1936) listed no less than
fifty different types of definitions. The defini-
tions of personality differ considerably accord-
ing to the scientific disciplines examined. Psy-
chology and political science –for example– are
endorsing divergent concepts of personality.
Even though some personalities had enormous
influences on world politics over the past de-
cades, personality studies are –understandably–
extremely difficult and limited seen the inacces-
sibility of the political leaders. It is impossible to
imagine that the most powerful and influential
political leaders in the world would let their per-
sonalities be unraveled by scientists. Therefore,
some researchers have avoided this problem by
designing objective methods to retrieve political
personality. These methods enable researchers to
retrieve the political personalities as perceived
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by the electorate. Although aspects of private
personality are contributing to the general and
publicly perceived personality, the political per-
sonality that lives amongst the voter citizens is
the most significant personality factor in voter
decision-making (Winter, 2003).
Political personality has been studied in nu-
merous studies by applying different methods.
Nonetheless, personality research has been
dominated by the Five Factor Model of personal-
ity structure since the early eighties (Costa &
McCrae, 1992). This model is a political variant
of the popular Big Five Structure (Goldenberg,
1983). Despite its popularity and simplicity, the
five dimensional framework has been contested
by various authors for various reasons (Caprara
& Perugini, 1994; Caprara & Barbaranelli,
1999; Ashton & Lee, 2005). Based on American
and Italian research it has established that voters
tend to simplify personality judgments of politi-
cal candidates in ongoing election campaigns by
reducing the usual five factors to a combination
of only two or maximum three factors. Caprara,
Calo, and Barbaranelli (1997) argued that the
five-dimensional structure of personality traits
does not correspond to the actual voter apprais-
als, while Caprara, Barbaranelli, and Zimbardo
(2002) demonstrated how the popular five-fac-
tor description is collapsing when it is used to
evaluate and map political candidate personality.
According to the authors, these retrieved de-
termining attributions –used to describe politi-
cians’ personality– may be explained as a direct
consequence of the use of simplified heuristics
and schematic information processing by the
voting public. Such simplification may even be
considered unique to the political arena. Indi-
viduals are faced with a great amount of com-
plex information reaching them in the form of
party propaganda, advertisement, candidates
statements, endorsements, and especially media
characterizations. According to Caprara et al.
(2002) the underlying process may be that vot-
ers are holding different personality schemata
for different coalitions or parties, thereby focus-
ing on different attributes. The authors reasoned
that these key trait markers could be used as
activation terms in –for example– political ads.
Moreover, these trait markers could be judi-
ciously included in the candidates’ speeches.
Campaign managers and political consultants
might therefore be selectively using particular
trait markers in characterizing a political candi-
date versus the opposing candidate. In other
words such simplified personality impressions
of political candidates may follow from the so-
called cognitively efficient strategy, adopted by
voters in order to cope with the mass of com-
plex information reaching them daily (Caprara
et al. 2002).
As indicated above, the major part of politi-
cal personality research has been conducted in
the United States of America. Especially the per-
sonality of individual political leaders has kept
numerous American scientists fascinated
throughout the previous decades. Prominent
political psychologists have set up, studied, and
analyzed personality profiles of several Ameri-
can presidents. The importance of personality
and performance assessments for evaluating po-
litical candidates has been most prominently
described and studied by Kinder and his col-
leagues. In most general terms Kinder, Abelson,
and Fiske (1979) assembled recent findings in
social and cognitive psychology aiming to de-
termine political candidate evaluation. The au-
thors argued that citizens have meta-theories or
prototypes about what good and effective lead-
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ership should be. These prototypes should be
considered as evaluative rulers against which
political candidates are measured. Kinder and
Abelson (1979) are proposing that these proto-
types include traits (personality characteristics
ascribed to leaders), affective reactions (patterns
of emotional responses elicited by leaders), be-
havioral expectations (understandings of what
actions leaders take), and ideal types (beliefs
about what the president should be and do).
These aspects of political personality can –nev-
erthelessbe reduced to politically relevant per-
sonality impressions formed and stored by indi-
vidual voters when confronted with political
Most research on specific candidate traits
concludes that the electorate is considering
leadership (dominance) and extraversion (cha-
risma) to be the most important personality
traits for political candidates, irrespective of the
level of political sophistication (Pierce, 1993).
Besides of leadership abilities, the perceived
quality of “competence” or “intelligence” seems
equally relevant (e.g. Rahn, Aldrich, Borgida,
and Sullivan, 1990; Caprara, Barbaranelli &
Zimbardo, 2002). These two qualities were
found to be of major importance in an “impres-
sionindex that positively correlated with the
perception, for males and females, of political
suitability (2004). Research by Immelman sup-
ports these findings by concluding that political
candidates perceived as extravert and outgoing,
and equally as dominant and ambitious, gener-
ally bring home the victory while the hard-
working, conscientious introvert has to give in
(Immelman, 1998, 1999, 2002, and 2003).
These conclusions are - furthermore - in agree-
ment with the distinction made by Newman
(1999a) in political marketing between Teflon-
personalities to which nothing sticks, and Velcro-
personalities to which almost everything sticks.
Teflon-personalities are perceived as extravert
and outgoing, characteristics that appeal to vot-
ers and are logically linked to leadership suit-
ability. These perceived personality traits are
believed to evoke certain emotional connec-
tions and reactions that attract voters (Aldrich
et al., 1999; Van Zoonen & Holz Bacha, 2000;
Winter, 2003).
Conclusions from political psychology litera-
ture on the political relevance of (particular) per-
sonality characteristics generally spur with find-
ings from organizational and management
studies that focus upon “charisma”. Kassimeris
and Philaretou (2010) in their Cypriot case
study describe the charismatic Archbishop Ma-
karios III as a socialized charismatic leader, with
a sensitive and empathic personality, which they
put into contrast with the “personalized” charis-
matic leader, possessing a narcissistic personality
disorder (Popper, 2000). Both this Cypriot case
and a study of Castro by Hoffman (2009, p.232-
233) understate the role played by both person-
ality and contextual factors in the formation of
charismatic leadership.
The paragraphs above compiled relevant ap-
proaches regarding the study of political person-
ality. The method forming the backbone of this
article is the Political Personality Index. This
method by the authors that draws upon the po-
litical personality scaling theories designed by
Immelman (1998, 1999, 2002, and 2004) will
be detailed in the next section. In the following,
empirical section the attribution of political per-
sonality and political suitability scores by re-
spondents will allow us to distinguish politically
relevant personality characteristics.
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The Political Personality index
Deduced from the theoretical introduction, this
research is advancing that impressions of politi-
cal suitability are steered by a set of central and
politically relevant personality impressions. The
retrieved politically suitable personality patterns
are anticipated to be corresponding to the con-
clusions by Immelman, meaning that more out-
going and extravert personalities will be most
desirable within the political context (2004).
Voters are believed to form an impression –a po-
litically relevant impression– when perceiving a
political candidate as outgoing, while the more
retiring pattern is considered unfavorable (Im-
melman, 1999, 2004; Pancer, Brown, & Barr,
1999). Perceived introversion is often interpret-
ed as indifference and as a lack of empathy. Poli-
ticians are presumed to be pursuing an extravert
personality. Extraversion is expected to be trans-
lating into politically suitable personality patterns.
The personality research reported in this ar-
ticle is based on the MIDC method by Immel-
man that relies upon the Millon model. After
having summarized the MICD method, this sec-
tion introduces the “Political Personality Index”
conceived by the authors as a method for assess-
ing personality in relation to political suitability.
In order to unravel the psychologically relevant
personality patterns, influencing and steering
the impression of politically suitability, respon-
dents are confronted with potential political can-
didates and asked to rate the politicians based
on the five personality scales briefly discussed
below. The respondents were also asked to eval-
uate the presented potential political candidates
on the impression of political suitability, result-
ing in a Political Suitability Score fluctuating be-
tween the values of one and five as well. These
Political Suitability Scores will later be contrast-
ed with the Political Personality Indexes in order
to unravel the personality characteristics linked
to the impression of political suitability. By statis-
tically investigating the respondent’s preferences
and interferences the relationship between as-
pects of political personality and political suit-
ability can be unveiled.
The MIDC method
Immelman converged Millons personality re-
search into a model enabling researchers to de-
termine perceived political personality. His
psycho-diagnostically founded method is en-
abling the scaling of political personality based
on the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria
(Immelman & Steinberg, 1999). With the MIDC
method the political personality can be deter-
mined and conceptualized in order to categorize
political personality types while predicting po-
litical behavior. Millons’ work is providing a
solid foundation for conceptualizing political
personality, classifying political personality
types, and predicting political behavior (Millon,
1990, 1986a, 1986b, 1991, 1994a, 1994b, 1996,
2003; Millon & Davis, 1998, 2000; Millon, Davis
& Millon, 1996; Millon & Everly, 1985). The
integrative capacity of Millons’ model is render-
ing it sufficiently comprehensive to accommo-
date the major principles of psychodynamic,
behavioral, humanistic, interpersonal, cognitive,
biogenic, and trait approaches to the study of
personality (Immelman, 2003).
In essence, the MIDC model is interpreting
personality disorders as essentially exaggerated
and pathologically distorted deviations ema-
nating from a normal and healthy distribution
of traits (Millon & Everly, 1985). Millon
(1994b) regards pathology as resulting from
the same forces involved in the development of
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normal functioning: the character, timing, and
intensity of these factors. Criteria for normality
are including: “The capacity to function auton-
omously and competently, a tendency to adjust
to one’s environment effectively and efficiently,
a subjective sense of contentment and satisfac-
tion, and the ability to actualize or to fulfill
one’s potentials.” (Immelman, 2003: p. 2)
Moreover, the presence of psychopathology is
established by the degree to which a person is
deficient, imbalanced, or conflicted in these ar-
eas (Millon, 2003). An accurate personality
profile is permitting to infer the likely nature
and direction of personality under conditions
of crisis or catastrophic personality breakdown.
(Immelman, 2003). According to Immelman,
“No present conceptual system in the field of
political personality rivals Millons model in
compatibility with conventional psychodiag-
nostic methods and standard clinical practice
in personality assessment. Moreover, no cur-
rent system matches the elegance with which
Millons’ evolutionary model synthesizes nor-
mality and psychopathology. In short, Millon
offers a theoretically coherent alternative to ex-
isting conceptual frameworks and assessment
methodologies for the psychological examina-
tion of political leaders or historical figures”
(Immelman, 2003, p. 2).
In order to apply the Immelman political per-
sonality scaling method the original scaling
model is converted into five scales including ten
opposing personality patterns (e.g. De Landt-
sheer, Thijssen, and Immelman, 2004). The fol-
lowing sections will be introducing the “Political
Personality Index” as a research instrument for
assessing political suitability of political candi-
dates, as well as the employed incentive materi-
al, and the respondents.
Research Instrument: The political personality
The ten most important scales of Immelmans’
model for political personality research can be
reduced to five scales with opposing personality
characteristics (De Landtsheer, Thijssen & Im-
melman, 2004). At the ends of each ten point
scale the equivalent of two personality patterns
are placed, which must be considered opposites.
The first scale is including the outgoing and re-
tiring personality pattern. The second scale is
containing the aggrieved and the dominant pat-
tern, while the third scale is including the reti-
cent pattern and the ambitious pattern. In the
fourth scale the accommodating pattern is op-
posing the contentious pattern. Finally the fth
scale is consisting of the conscientious and the
dauntless personality pattern. These five scales
will be emanating into a Political Personality In-
dex calculated for each potential political candi-
date introduced in this research.
The more a candidates’ score is situated near
the midpoint of the polarity scale, the less out-
spoken the perceived political personality of that
particular political candidate must be consid-
ered. When the score is moving towards one of
the tail ends of the scale more outspokenly, the
more pronounced one of the contrasting person-
ality types can be assumed present. In the fol-
lowing section, the specifics of the Political Per-
sonality Index will be calculated. (Ver tabla 1,
g. 73).
In order to make the findings more compre-
hensive and comparable, the ten point scales are
reduced into five broader categories. As depicted
in the table above, each evaluation is translating
into a score ranging from one to five. Each Po-
litical Personality Index is thereby consisting of
the average value of the five scales and it ranges
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from one to five. Once the index is dropping be-
low the 2,5 the portrayed candidate is distribut-
ing a rather negative political personality image,
while scores higher than 2,5 are indicating a fa-
vorable political personality. A Political Personal-
ity Index of 5 must be considered a most prefer-
able political personality.
More specifically, the two ends of the scale -
‘definitely x’ and ‘definitely y’–can be regarded as
politically unsuitable. According to Immelman
(2007), a rather outgoing, dominant, ambitious,
accommodating, and dauntless personality pat-
tern is most politically suitable, thereby relying
on the reasoning established over the following
paragraphs. Regarding the first scale, the outgo-
ing personality pattern is enabling political
candidates to connect with the audience. None-
theless, a too elevated level of the outgoing per-
sonality pattern is leading towards impressions
of impulsiveness and histrionic behavior. The
dominant personality pattern –included in the
second scaleis driving voter and citizen im-
pressions on strong and efficient leadership, an
indispensable characteristic for distributing the
image of political suitability. Noteworthy how-
ever, is the fact that if the dominant pattern is too
elevated, the candidate may come across as be-
ing overly aggressive, a characteristic that gener-
ally doesn’t play well with voters. The third scale
which places the ambitious personality pat-
tern on the positive side is providing the impres-
sion of self-confidence, once again if not too el-
evated. Immelman continues by arguing that a
combination of the outgoing and the ambitious
pattern ensures a candidates’ charismatic quality.
The tendency towards a rather accommodating
personality pattern –referred to in the fourth
scale –must be considered as an asset in the po-
litical arena. This accommodating characteristic
is driving the impressions of friendliness and di-
plomacy. Nevertheless, once again a highly ele-
vated level of the accommodating pattern is
leading towards impressions of weakness and
submissiveness. And finally, the fifth scale is in-
cluding the dauntless personality pattern in-
dicating –when present in a modest amount
the adventurousness, and the willingness to take
risks; characteristics believed highly attractive to
potential voters. An extreme elevated level of the
dauntless personality pattern– on the other hand
–is feeding the politically negative impressions
of sensation seeking, rule braking, bully behavior.
Opposing Political Personality Patterns
Politically Suitable Patterns Versus Politically Unsuitable Patterns
Denitely (5-6) Rather (1-2) Neither (3-4) Rather (7-8) Denitely (9-10)
Score: 3 Score:5 Score: 4 Score: 2 Score: 1
Outgoing Retiring
Dominant Aggrieved
Ambitious Reticent
Accommodating Contentious
Dauntless Conscientious
Table 1. The Political Personality Index
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with the politically suitable patterns placed on
the left side of the political personality spectrum
as presented above.
As can be deduced from the reasoning above,
the Political Personality Index is encompassing
the discussed positive and negative consequenc-
es inherent to the attribution of the personality
patterns included in Immelmans’ model. The at-
tribution of outspoken, yet positively assumed
political personality patterns is thereby granted
three points, while the politically most prefera-
ble personality patterns are awarded five points.
These ideal patterns are represented in the sec-
ond column. Stable and balanced personalities
are attributed four points. The mildly presence
of the less politically preferable personality pat-
terns accounts for two points, and finally the
outspoken manifestation of the negative person-
ality pattern is awarded only one point. When
the five scales are brought together and reduced
to one mean value, the Political Personality In-
dex arises.
Incentive Material
Each respondent is confronted with a set of
printed pictures presenting ten possible male or
female political candidates and asked to place
the portrayed political candidate on each of the
five scales, based on the opposing personality
patterns. As can be deduced from the above ta-
ble, each scale is consisting of ten gradations,
from ‘definitely x’ over ‘rather x’ and ‘rather y’ to
‘definitely y’ (x and y are thereby representing
the opposing personality patterns). Afterwards,
the respondent was asked to scale the displayed
political candidate on a scale from one to ten for
the characteristic of political suitability. More
precisely the respondent answered the following
On the other side of the personality spectrum
the politically unsuitable patterns arise. The out-
spoken retiring personality pattern is indicat-
ing the tendencies towards solitary and aloof
personality impressions, while the aggrieved
personality pattern is reinforcing self-denying
and self-defeating impressions. The reticent per-
sonality pattern on the other hand is indicating
withdrawn and inhibited personality characteris-
tics. The contentious personality pattern is
translating into a negativistic and oppositional
image, while the conscientious personality pat-
tern is enhancing impressions of compulsiveness
and obsessive dutifulness. The outspoken per-
sonality patterns of the retiring, aggrieved, reti-
cent, contentious, and conscientious personality
pattern can therefore be labeled as politically un-
suitable personality traits.
Nonetheless, the mildly variant of these nega-
tively perceived political personality patterns can
have a positive influence on the impression of
political suitability. The mildly retiring person-
ality pattern is pointing at a reserved and re-
spectful aspect of the political personality, while
the lowest aggrieved pattern denotes the unpre-
suming personality characteristics. A mildly reti-
cent personality pattern is indicating the char-
acteristic of circumspect or precaution. A mild
indication of the contentious personality pat-
tern can be translated into the impression of a
resolute and determined personality. While the
moderate presence of the last personality pattern
–the conscientious personality pattern is
feeding impressions of respect and passion.
Nonetheless, it is important to state that even
though the described variants of these personal-
ity patterns may have a positive influence on the
impression of the politically suitable personality
they should under no circumstances be equated
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question: “Do you consider this candidate suit-
able to represent you in the House of Parliament?”
Overall sixty photographs of potential politi-
cal candidates are employed in this research,
thirty male and thirty female politicians. These
candidates are representing as many different
physical characteristics as possible, meaning that
male and female political candidates from differ-
ent age categories were included in the incentive
material. Furthermore, both candidates coming
across as casual and formal were admitted. By
introducing these different types of individuals
the connectedness between the personality pat-
terns assumed to be politically relevant and the
political suitability of the political candidate
could be unveiled.
A wide variety of different physical character-
istics was included in the different sets of photo-
graphs applied as incentive material. The por-
trayed candidates were - furthermore - unknown
individuals to the respondents. The pictures
originated from foreign European internet sites
(German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese).
Overall, 590 male and 581 female respondents
took part in the study, resulting into 1171 indi-
viduals. Respondents were interviewed from
door to door, on the street, and in the train. The
respondents were selected based on gender, age,
level of education, and political affiliation.
Identical to the studies discussed above it was
aspired to include an equal amount of male and
female respondents. Moreover, an equal division
of the respondents across three age categories
was strived for: young adults (between the age of
18 and 35), adults (between the age of 35 and
65), and elderly (older than 65). The participat-
ing respondents can be divided across the three
broader age categories, more precisely: 396 indi-
viduals belonged to the first age category, rang-
ing from the eighteen to thirty five. The second
age category - ranging from thirty six to sixty five
- consisted of an equal number of respondents,
while the third category consisted of 379 re-
spondents. These three age categories represent-
ed young adults (18-35), adults (36-65), and
elderly (60+).
A third demographic variable is the level of
education. Four levels of education were noted:
university degree, degree of higher education,
high school degree, no high school degree.
Based on this division, higher and lower edu-
cated respondents could be separated. Overall,
114 respondents merely finished elementary
school, 475 respondents held a high school de-
gree, 385 respondents possessed a higher educa-
tional degree, and finally 197 individuals at-
tained an academic degree.
A fourth and final variable which included in
the analyses is monitoring the respondents’ po-
litical affiliation. Respondents were divided over
seven categories. Overall 201 respondents affili-
ated themselves with the liberal democrat party
VLD and 253 considered themselves members
of the Christian democrat party. Furthermore,
92 respondents described themselves as mem-
bers of the green party Groen!, 180 respondents
were affiliated with the social democrat party
and finally 115 individuals noted their extreme
right (Vlaams Belang) affiliation.
The winning candidate personality
Over the following sections the results retrieved
from the respondents judgment on the per-
ceived political personality will be discussed.
The first section will be presenting the highest
and lowest Political Suitability Scores deduced
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from the respondent evaluations. Afterwards,
the interactions between the Political Personal-
ity Index and the demographic characteristics of
the participating respondents will be investi-
gated. Moreover -–and more importantly– the
relationship between the Political Personality
Index, the components compounding the in-
dex, and the Political Suitability Scores will be
intensively examined.
Political Suitability Scores
The average Political Suitability Score attained
by the male political candidates is 2,45. At first
sight this score is relatively low, meaning that the
majority of the attributed evaluations on the im-
pression of politically suitability are negative. An
ANOVA calculation is demonstrating that the
differences between the means are significant
with an F value of 17,042 (the significance of F
is .000). A genuinely significant overall differ-
ence between the presented Political Suitability
Scores can be concluded. The Political Suitabili-
ty Scores obtained by the five highest scoring
male political candidates are thereby significant-
ly differing from the ve lowest scoring male
In analogy to the conclusions based on the
evaluations of the potential male political candi-
dates, the average Political Suitability Score
seems to be significantly low as well. The aver-
age Political Suitability Score achieved by the
female politicians is 2,48 and slightly higher
than the average male Political Suitability Score.
The differences between the means are signifi-
cant with an F value of 19,437 (the significance
of F is .000). Similar to the male ndings, sig-
nificant overall difference between the Political
Suitability Scores can be concluded.
The Political Personality Index
In this section, the calculated Personality Index-
es will be scrutinized. Overall, the average Politi-
cal Personality Index attributed by the respon-
dents is 2,99. The average Political Personality
Index for the female political candidates is 2,98.
In analogy to the results presented above the ex-
planatory power of the Political Personality In-
dex should be demonstrating the fitness or un-
suitableness of the political psychology emphasis
on certain aspects of political personality. The
following sections will be uncovering the statisti-
cally significant interplay and interaction of the
different demographic variables –explained in
the operationalization and applied in the above
discussed studies– included in this research.
Subsequently, the relationship between the Po-
litical Personality Index and the Political Suit-
ability Score will be discussed.
Interactions with Demographic Variables
In this section the gender, age, level of education,
and political affiliation of the respondents are in-
cluded into the analyses. Each demographic vari-
able will be discussed separately over the follow-
ing paragraphs. The interactions are calculated in
SPSS. Chi-square tests and spearman coefficients
are calculated to determine the significance and
the impact of the retrieved interactions.
The first demographic variable included in
the analyses is the gender variable. No signifi-
cant interactions can be unveiled between the
gender of the respondent and the Political Per-
sonality Index (Chi²=33,643; p=0,786). When
the demographic variable representing the three
age categories is taken into consideration some
significant and interesting interactions surface
(rho=-0,046; df=8; p<.000). Respondents be-
longing to the adult age category are accounting
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The centrality of political personality to political suitability, a matter of charisma? (Pág. 64 a 79)
for 64,3% of the highest Political Personality In-
dexes with an average Political Personality Index
of 2,42. Merely 7,1% of these highest evalua-
tions can be brought back to the young adult age
category (18-35) with an average Political Per-
sonality Index of 2,3 and 28,6% to the category
elderly (65+) with an average Political Personal-
ity Index of 2,56. It can therefore be concluded
that in general, the adults and the elderly are ac-
countable for the highest Political Personality
Indexes attributed, especially in contrast to the
youngest respondents.
When the gender of the respondent is taken
into consideration, similar conclusions can be
drawn. The respondents in the highest age cate-
gory are responsible for the highest Indexes re-
gardless their own gender and the gender of the
portrayed politician. A third demographic vari-
able is representing the respondentslevel of ed-
ucation. The cross tabulation operation did not
reveal any significant interactions between the
Political Personality Index and the respondents’
level of education (rho=0,003; p=0,762).
A final variable brought in relation with the
Personality Index is the respondents’ political af-
filiation. Even though the relationship between
the respondents’ political affiliation and the Po-
litical Personality Index is significant (Ch=
44,117; df=24, p<.05) no remarkable conclu-
sions can be recovered. The respondents affili-
ated with the Christian democratic party or the
liberal democratic party seem to be accountable
for the more elevated indexes than could be ex-
pected. The green party and the social demo-
cratic party affiliates on the other hand seem to
be less willing to attribute high indexes.
Personality Index versus Political Suitability
In order to determine the fitness and explana-
tory power of the Political Personality Index,
the interplay between the index and the Politi-
cal Suitability Score (PS Score) must be investi-
gated. In a first paragraph the overall correla-
tions between the specific components of the
Personality Index and the PS Score will be dis-
cussed. Afterwards, a multiple regression analy-
ses will be revealing the overall explanatory
power of the Personality Index and its distinct
Overall, the spearman correlation between
the Political Suitability Score and the Political
Personality Index is indicating a positive and sig-
nicant relationship (rho=0,154; df=410; p<.001).
Nonetheless the connection between these two
variables must be designated as weak. The table
below is containing the correlations calculated
between the opposing personality scales and the
impression of political suitability, in other words
the Political Suitability Score.
Spearman Correlations with PS Score (N=1171)
Political Suitability Score
Outgoing - Retiring Personality Scale 0,363(*)
Dominant - Aggrieved Personality Scale - 0,122(*)
Ambitious - Reticent Personality Scale - 0,214(*)
Accommodating - Contentious Personality Scale 0,204(*)
Dauntless - Conscientious Personality Scale 0,05(*)
* p< 0,001
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Based on the table presented above some in-
teresting conclusions can be drawn regarding
the interaction between the opposing personali-
ty scales and the impression of political suitabil-
ity. Firstly, the direction of the correlations is
demonstrating that only three out of the five per-
sonality scales are positively correlating with the
index calculation. The dominant-aggrieved scale
and the ambitious-reticent scale have a negative
effect on the Political Personality Index, meaning
that the aggrieved and the reticent personality
pattern must be considered as more politically
suitable than the dominant and the ambitious
personality pattern. The other three personality
patterns are - nonetheless - significantly correlat-
ing with the impression of political suitability.
Secondly, the retrieved spearman correlations
enable this research to interpret the strength of
the relationships. As can be deduced from the
correlations presented above, the outgoing-retir-
ing scale is accounting for the strongest correla-
tion (rho=0,363; p<.001), followed by the ac-
commodating-contentious personality scales
(rho=0,204; p<.001). The ambitious-reticent
personality scale (rho=-0,214; p<.001) and the
dominant-aggrieved personality scale (rho=-
0,122; p<.001) are accounting for a significant
yet negative impact. Finally, the dauntless-con-
scientious scale is accounting for the weakest
and almost negligible correlation (rho=0,05,
p<.001). The calculated spearman correlations
are indicating that not all the opposing personal-
ity scales are contributing positively and/or
strongly to the Political Suitability Score.
A multiple regression analysis is executed in
order to determine the influences of theve op-
posing personality scales on the impression of
political suitability more profoundly. The table
–presented below– is clarifying the impact, di-
rection, and power of the five personality scales
composing the Personality Index.
The adjusted R Square is indicating that over-
all 17,4% of the variance –or the Political Suit-
ability Score –is explained by the model intro-
ducing the five scales from the Personality Index.
Furthermore, the contribution of the dauntless-
conscientious personality scale is not significant,
meaning that the dauntless-conscientious scale
is not contributing to the variance all.
The highest standardized beta coefficient –in-
dicating the contribution of each variable to the
explanatory modelis demonstrating the signifi-
cant effect of the outgoing-retiring personality
scale on the Political Suitability Score. The out-
going-retiring personality scale is explaining the
Political Suitability Score best (Standardized
Multiple Regression Analysis Explaining the Political Suitability Score (R=,418; R²=,174; Adjusted R²=,174)
Variable Stand. Beta Sig t Tolerance
Outgoing-Retiring 0,338 ,000 38,990 0,958
Ambitious-Reticent -0,186 ,002 -16,026 0,532
Accommodating-Contentious 0,035 ,000 3,163 0,579
Dominant-Aggrieved 0,072 ,000 6,650 0,605
Dauntless-Conscientious -0,007 ,433 -0,785 0,837
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The centrality of political personality to political suitability, a matter of charisma? (Pág. 64 a 79)
Beta=0,338). The ambitious-reticent personality
scale must be considered the second best predic-
tor (Standardized Beta=-0,183) even though the
effect of the scale is running in the opposite di-
rection. The accommodating-contentious scale
is resulting into the third highest beta coefficient
(Standardized Beta=0,072). And finally the
dominant-aggrieved personality scale is ac-
counting for the lowest standardized beta coef-
ficient (Standardized Beta=0,035).
The introduction of five scales with opposing
personality patterns –resulting into the Political
Personality Index –aimed to confirm the explan-
atory power of the presumed politically suitable
personality patterns deduced from the MIDC
model designed by Immelman. In conclusion of
this research one may state that these aspirations
are not completely fulfilled. Although the Politi-
cal Personality Index was found to be positively
linked to the Political Suitability Score - meaning
that high Indexes translated into high PS Scores
and vice versa - some of the designed opposing
personality patterns turned out to have a reverse
effect. In other words, voters did not confirm all
preconceived hypotheses.
First of all, the dauntless-conscientious per-
sonality scale did not contribute to the explana-
tion of the impression of political suitability.
Furthermore, the ambitious-reticent personality
pattern had an opposite effect on the Political
Suitability Score, meaning that a high score re-
sulted into a low Political Suitability Score and
vice versa. More specifically, the potential voters
did not support the assumption deduced from
political psychology theory arguing that political
candidates should disseminate a more ambitious
personality instead of a more reticent personali-
ty. In addition to that, the dauntless-conscien-
tious personality pattern - although it was found
irrelevant to the Political Suitability Score - cor-
related negatively with the impression of politi-
cal suitability as well, indicating that a political
candidate should rather be displaying a consci-
entious personality pattern instead of a daunt-
less one.
Despite the shortcomings discussed above,
the most powerful personality predictor result-
ing into a politician being perceived as politi-
cally suitable was the outgoing-retiring person-
ality pattern. The more outgoing a politician is
perceived, the more politically suitable he or she
comes across. Overall, the components of the
Political Personality Index accounted for 17% of
the Political Suitability Score. These conclusions
might be indicating that the interpretation of the
presumed politically relevant personality pat-
terns as furthered by this political psychology
interpretation should be reconsidered. None-
theless, the Political Personality Index is account-
ing for a significant part of the impression of
political suitability. Especially the personality
pattern of outgoingness (personal charisma) seems
to be translating into impressions of political
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