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Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Kamala Harris at the first Democratic presidential debate, Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Research conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics under the direction of Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., is projecting the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The Personal Electability Index (PEI) developed at the unit projects that none of the seven Democratic contenders assessed by the USPP will be able to defeat Donald Trump.

This election-outcome forecast is at variance with a contemporaneous ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted June 28-July 1, 2019, that shows Trump losing against or statistically tied with the five Democratic front-runners:

Among all adults …, Joe Biden leads Trump by 14 points. But that narrows among the other four Democrats tested against Trump in this poll – an 8-point lead for Kamala Harris, a slight 7 points for Elizabeth Warren, 6 for Bernie Sanders and 4 for Pete Buttigieg. The latter two don’t reach statistical significance.

Among registered voters, moreover, Biden still leads, by 10 points, but the other races all tighten to virtual or actual dead heats – Trump a non-significant -2 points against Harris, -1 against Sanders and exactly tied with Warren and Buttigieg.

The PEI (derived from Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria scale scores) has accurately predicted, before Super Tuesday, the outcome of every presidential election since 1996.

The PEI heuristic model employs candidate personality traits, as publicly perceived, to predict which contender will resonate most favorably with independent and unaffiliated voters who base their voting choice primarily on the candidate’s personal qualities as publicly displayed rather than on party-political affiliation or allegiance.

The PEI model’s predictive utility in recent presidential election cycles appears to derive from the practically even division of the nation into reliably Republican and Democratic voting blocks, essentially yielding the balance of power to politically independent and unaffiliated voters comprising as much as one-third of the electorate.

Research on the psychology of politics conducted at the USPP reveals that voters respond favorably to candidates who are outgoing (extraverted), self-confident (productively narcissistic), and dominant; and negatively to candidates who are introverted and overly conscientious.

First, extraversion (Scale 3: Outgoing) conveys energy, drive, and charisma; the candidate passes the so-called “beer test.”

Second, self-confident, adaptive narcissism (Scale 2: Ambitious) is publicly perceived as leadership competency; legitimately or not, confidence conveys competence.

Third, social dominance (Scale 1A: Dominant) is publicly perceived as signifying strong leadership; governing requires cooperation and compromise, but campaigns reward fighters.

Fourth, introversion (Scale 8: Retiring) conveys low energy, a lack of drive, and the absence of charisma; the candidate fails the “beer test.”

Fifth, although associated with positive traits such as honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, morality, prudence, and competence, conscientiousness (Scale 6: Conscientious) at elevated levels is negatively perceived as being overly programmed, moralistic, officious, and high-handed, which doesn’t play well in retail politics.

As conceptualized by the PEI forecasting model, candidates studied in the 2020 presidential election cycle rank as follows in terms of predicted political impact as a general election candidate:

Donald Trump

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 65-77 (71 ±6); dysfunctionality adjusted 45

 

Joe Biden

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5)

 

Kamala Harris

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-27 (20 ±7)

 

Bernie Sanders

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

 

Amy Klobuchar

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-23 (18 ±5)

 

Beto O’Rourke

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-23 (17 ±6)

 

Pete Buttigieg

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 10-18 (14 ±4)

 

Elizabeth Warren

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-15 (13 ±2)

 

The Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics’s PEI projection is congruent with the ABC News/Washington Post poll’s finding that, among the Democratic primary front-runners, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris would pose the strongest challenge to Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup.


 

Detailed Personal Electability Index scores

Following are the scores of candidates studied in the 2020 presidential election cycle on the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria-based Personal Electability Index, which has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1996.

Donald Trump: PEI = 65-77 (71 ±6); dysfunctionality adjusted 45*

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 17 9 24 24 0 0 4 0 0 0
Upper bound: 20 14 30 27 1 0 9 3 0 1
Adjusted: 15 9 15 15 0 0 4 0 0 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 17] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 24] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 17] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = 0] = 65 – 0 = 65

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 27] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 30] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 20] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 77 – 0 = 77

Dysfunctionality adjusted PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = (24 – 9) = 15] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = (24 – 9) = 15] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = (17 – 2) = 15] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = 0] = 45 – 0 = 45

* The dysfunctionality adjusted score limits positive points for scales 1A, 2, and 3 to 15, based on the assumption that scale elevations above 15 may be dysfunctional in some respects. (Note also that the PEI heuristic specifies that scale negative for scale 6 are assigned for scale elevations above 4 only.)

Joe Biden: PEI = 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 3 2 4 9 5 0 1 1 0 0
Upper bound: 6 4 10 13 5 0 1 4 0 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 9] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1 – 1) = 0] = 16 – 0 = 16

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 13] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 10] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 6] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 29 – 0 = 29

Kamala Harris: PEI = 13-27 (20 ±7)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 4 2 4 5 3 1 1 3 0 0
Upper bound: 8 4 6 13 4 1 2 4 1 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 5] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 4] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1-1) = 0] = 13 – 0 = 13

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 13] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 6] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 8] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 27 – 0 = 27

Bernie Sanders: PEI = 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 9 5 5 3 2 0 4 3 0 1
Upper bound: 13 11 9 4 5 1 12 5 0 2

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 3] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 5] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 9] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 17 – 1 = 16

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 9] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 13] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 2] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (5 – 4) = 1] = 26 – 3 = 23

Amy Klobuchar: PEI = 13-23 (18 ±5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 11 3 7 4 5 0 1 13 0 0
Upper bound: 20 3 11 6 5 0 3 17 0 1

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 7] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 11] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (13 – 4) = 9] = 22 – 9 = 13

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 6] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 11] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 20] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (17 – 4) = 13] = 37 – 14 = 23

Beto O’Rourke: PEI = 11-23 (17 ±6)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 1 5 4 6 5 1 1 1 0 0
Upper bound: 3 13 6 14 7 3 3 2 3 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 6] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 1] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1 – 1) = 0] = 11 – 0 = 11

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 14] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 6] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (2 – 2) = 0] = 23 – 0 = 23

Pete Buttigieg: PEI = 10-18 (14 ±4)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 2 2 4 4 5 1 0 3 2 0
Upper bound: 3 4 9 8 7 2 1 5 4 1

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 2] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 10 – 0 = 10

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 8] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 9] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (5 – 4) = 1] = 20 – 2 = 18

Elizabeth Warren: PEI = 11-15 (13 ±2)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 9 2 4 3 1 0 2 4 3 1
Upper bound: 11 3 8 4 4 3 3 12 7 4

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 3] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 9] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 16 – 1 = 15

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 8] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 11] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 4] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (12 – 4) = 8] = 23 – 12 = 11

 


PEI Scores for Democratic and Republican Nominees, 1996-2016

For historical context, here are the personality-based electability scores for all major-party nominees since 1996, published before Super Tuesday in presidential election years, with the successful candidate listed first:


 

Related report

Projecting the Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election: The Personal Electability Index (Feb. 29, 2016)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump





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