Temperament, US Presidents and US voters

Since we are just days away from the presidential elections in the US, I did some googling about temperament and presidents.  Overall there was more information on Obama, but more agreement on Romney, among the 2012 comments.  A brief blog from Psychology Today commented on Romney that “he’s probably an ENTJ…a forceful type that often assumes a leadership role.  Another blogger also suggests that Romney is an ENTJ.  For an estimate of validity, compare this with the same blogger’s report that both Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken the MBTI and came out as ENFP and INTJ respectively.  ENFP seems like a perfect fit for Bill Clinton, and I would not be surprised if Hillary is accurately an INTJ.

Returning to Romney, Michael Melcher at the Huffington Post has Romney as ENTJ also. * One blogger at Personality Pathways thinks that both Obama and Romney are  introverts and notes that Keirsey had rated Obama as extraverted in 2008 but shifted to an introversion rating in 2012.  T and J seem to be generally agreed upon and just one source that I found suggested that Romney would be a practical sensing S rather than an intuitive N.  I would sum up the small consensus as Romney either as ENTJ or INTJ.  Based on his seeming reserve, and desire to keep his family life private, I would tend to agree with INTJ.  Many people in public life, from politicians to entertainers, develop good extraversion skills without being at heart extraverts.

Obama?  Well here, the discussion on introversion/extraversion is more divided.  As noted above, Keirsey changed his estimate from extraversion to introversion over the past four years.  A Slate commentator was convinced that his poor performance on the first debate was partly due to natural introversion.**  That is, whatever the reason for his under par performance–lack of preparation, over-confidence, sheer boredom–his underlying temperament took over and he went quiet.  Certainly it would be hard to imagine Bill Clinton, the quintessential extravert, behaving in the same way.  The same author notes some other small behavioral indications here also.  Michelle Obama apparently felt seriously neglected by the fact, early in their marriage, that Barack would “often spend the evening holed up in my office in the back of our railroad apartment: what I considered normal often left Michelle feeling lonely.”  This author also notes that “Obama enjoys being the the Oval Office on the weekends, for instance, when has aides aren’t there.”

All in all I would go with introversion with Obama.  The N for intuition is not in dispute by anyone, all commenters seeing him as visionary and focused on the future.  But is he a Thinker or a Feeler? Again, I am going from a very small pool of comments, but within these, F versus T seems to be too close to call.  David Keirsey’s book, Presidential Temperament, was published in 1992, and through that date (including Bush I) he stated that we had never had a president with the NF Idealist temperament, and seemed to consider it unlikely for the future.  In any event, he judges Obama today to be an INTJ–the Mastermind, in his system.  Finally, there  seems to be general agreement on Judging as the fourth preference.  Obama is on time for nearly all occasions, and seems to keep a clear focus on the goals he has for the future.  There may be a curious Perceiver in there, but it doesn’t seem to show in these outward behaviors.

Does it matter whether Obama is INTJ or INFJ?  Well, it may, according to some commentators.  This leads to a second topic–votes and the temperament of the voter.  The Melcher article in the Huffington Post comments that “if we assume that a candidate’s personality and ability to connect with votes matters then ENFJ Obama has a stronger position than ENTJ Romney….if the election turns on how much voters can relate to a candidate, then it is Obama’s to lose.”  (This is one of the votes for extraversion, but the relevant difference here is Thinking versus Feeling.  He assumes that people naturally feel more warmth from Feelers and tend to feel more warmth toward them.  And certainly, there are far more Feeler voters, at least among women.)

This idea that the temperament of the voter matters a great deal in voting decisions comes up in several sources. Keirsey has been running a poll on Obama and Romney, not on their own temperaments or preferences, but on the preferences of those who “personally like” each candidate, and preferences of those who would vote for each one if the election were held immediately.  (This dates back to October 24th of this year.)***  The most dramatic differences were between T preferences, which Keirsey designates as “tough-minded” and F preferences, which he calls “friendly”.  On the voting question, Ts strongly prefer Romney, but also have more votes in the “undecided” and “neither” columns than do Fs.  Fs strongly favor Obama.  However, the “personally like” findings indicate that even the Ts “like” Obama more than Romney, though not with the wild enthusiasm of the Fs.  This suggests again that Feelers just naturally seem more likeable.

Going back further( July 2011) and looking at full temperaments, the Keirsey site reports that 55% of all Idealist NFs would choose Obama in a wide open field. Another report from that time period indicates that within the republican primary field at that time, Guardians (SJs) favored Mitt Romney, and Artisans (SPs) and Rationals (NTs) favored Ron Paul.  By July 2012, the Keirsey poll indicated that if only Guardians were allowed to vote, Mitt Romney would be the next president. where Barack Obama would be “the overwhelming preference of Idealists and Rationals (NTs) At that time he would also be the “marked preference of all Artisian and Guardian women”.  Among Idealists, males preferred Obama even more strongly than females.  In terms of party identification, guardians were the most likely group to identify as republicans, and Idealists the most likely to identify as Democrats.

Yet another post suggests that you can predict votes for each candidate simply on the authoritarian or non-authoritarian attitude of the voter, and you can predict this from simply asking about the values they consider important for their children.  (Is it independence or respect for elders?  curiosity or good manners?)  Here Obama would be the independence and curiosity candidate.

So, who will the winner be?  I guess Feeling would give a leg up to Obama–providing he really is a Feeler-but that really doesn’t help much.  Wide faces in US Presidents have been found to predict a greater drive for achievement, but presumably that only helps after the election. My guess is that Romney would win the wide face contest.  If only we could get data on ring and index finger length on these two!  Guess we just have to wait.


Most of my references simply came from googling “What is the personality type for Obama (Romney)”.  Since this is all conjecture I am not including them here, but do list a few  select examples.



***For Keirsey the articles are:

Keirsey Research 2012 Election Tracking Poll:  Obama gets “F’s”, Romney Fails

Keirsey Research 2012 Election Tracking Poll:  The Temperament Gap Holds Steady

And–if you want to see which US President from the past your own qualities would be most like, there is a quiz at http://www.okcupid.com/results/the presidential-personality-test/  Results range from being most like some president from Washington to Reagan or (sadly) “Not POTUS material”.

PS.  Despite what Keirsey would predict about NT (Rational) voters, this INTJ is pulling for Mitt Romney.

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3 Responses to Temperament, US Presidents and US voters

  1. Pingback: Obama vs. Romney – US-Präsidentschaftskandidaten typisiert | TypenTest Blog

  2. Lars says:

    Very interesting. I’m currently wrtiting an article about the same subject, because american elections are even here in europe one of the major news themes these days.

    My guess for Obama is ENFJ. I strongly agree about the I-E tie, though. He definately has introverted traits. But what he shows to the world is mostly extraversion. Thet leads to the question: if a person is extraverted when around people but for himself prefers introversion, than what is he? A mix, i would say.
    However i see him having a clear feeling tendence. Obama seems always friendly, cooperative and never uses harsh words. Compare that with Romney or Bush. Also many of his major themes are about social justice and helping underprivileged. Typical F-Themes. Of course he has to sho some T-ness to get along in the political game.

    For Romney i have no clear opinion because i don’t know him so good. ESTJ or ENTJ is my guess. He doesn’t come over like an introvert to me and i don’t really see why he should be a N-type? Because of entrepeneural farsight? That could be also J-planning. Ok, i don’t see him a a clear S-Type either. Perhaps its also a bias of mine that i see conservatives often as S-types.

    On a site note: i always find it strange that in american culture and politics, social themes and more state involvement are left or liberal themes. Here in europe, social themes are on the agenda of all parties and various state involvement and regulation themes are also on the agenda of all parties. In Germany, social themes like unemployment aid, family aid, pension funds, etc. are always big themes of all parties.
    In eastern, former communist countries, big state involvements are agendas of right wing conservative parties, and left wing parties want less state involvement and more individual rights – the opposite of american politics.

    • INTJ says:

      Hi Lars,

      On the introversion/extraversion thing, my assumption is always that your private behavior is closer to your real preferences. If it differs from public behavior I assume that you have learned good extraversion skills because you need them for what you do, but still have the underlying introversion prefs. I don’t know if I have ever read anything definitive about this though.

      Conservatives as Ss? Possible in many cases, but I am sure not in all. Studies do show less openness on the Big Five for conservatives, so that follows, but unlike S/N in the MBTI they don’t really talk about a neutral point for openness, closedness, though it is there mathematically.

      That is interesting about the ex-communist countries–perhaps indicates that liberalism/conservatism is more about keeping or changing what is familiar, rather than the specific content.

      For myself, I am probably closer to libertarian, but conservative about economics and foreign policy, so a Romney supporter. I have always scored as a very strong NT, for whatever that is worth.

      Thanks for your comments. I thought, after finishing the politics blog, that it would have been fun to know the digit ratio for Obama and Romney!


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