Presidential Personality

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Presidential Personality

Dimensions of personality according to James David Barber in The Pulse of Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980).

1) Activity or Passivity

How much energy does a president invest in his presidency?

2) Positiveness or Negativeness toward the job of president

Does the president enjoy his job? Does he enjoy exercising power? Does the job make him sad or discouraged?

*These dimensions are closely related to dimensions of dominance/submissiveness, extroversion/introversion, and optimism/pessimism.

Types of Personality

1. Active positive

A president who spends a lot of energy and enjoys his job. This type of president tends to have high self-esteem. He tends to be productive in pushing programs through. He is flexible enough to try something else when his plans are stymied. He wants results.

FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, George Bush (The first Bush presidency)

2. Active negative

A president who spends a lot of energy but does not enjoy his job. This type tends to have low self-esteem. Expands his energy compulsively to compensate for some shortcoming or to prove to others that he is a person to be reckoned with, Seeks and tries to retain power. Is rigid when stymied. He wants to get and keep power.

Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson

3. Passive positive

A president who does not spend much energy but nevertheless likes the job. Tends to have low self-esteem and compensates for this by seeking affection instead of power. He does this by being agreeable and cooperative rather than assertive. He wants affection.

William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Ronald Reagan

4. Passive negative

A president who does not spend much energy and does not like the job. He becomes president because he thinks he should, out of a sense of service to the country. He wants the grim satisfaction of doing his duty.
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