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Minnesota Professor Predicted Trump’s Win

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University professor Aubrey Immelman, who predicted Donald Trump would win over Hillary Clinton based on their personality profiles, shown Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Immelman has predicted presidential winners correctly for the past 20 years. (Photo: Jason Wachter / St. Cloud Times)

By Kirsti Marohn
St. Cloud Times
November 19, 2016

Pollsters almost universally were wrong about the outcome of the 2016 election, but one local political psychology professor accurately predicted as early as March that Donald Trump would win the presidency.

Aubrey Immelman, who directs the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, developed a model that uses a candidate’s personality traits to determine how electable they are. Immelman’s model has accurately predicted the winner of the last six presidential elections.

What’s surprising is that Immelman picked Trump last spring as the only candidate from the crowded field of Republican contenders who could beat Hillary Clinton. The St. Cloud Times published a story in March about Immelman’s findings, which even he wasn’t sure he believed.

“Considering what the polls were saying and just looking at how volatile, even unpredictable Trump was, I thought, ‘Well, maybe this time I’ll be wrong,’ ” Immelman said.

When Immelman and his research students first met in June 2015 to decide which candidates to profile, they picked five Republicans they thought were the most viable, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. On a whim, Immelman suggested including the New York real estate mogul whose presidential bid seemed like a long shot.

“I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do Trump?’ ” Immelman recalled. “We all laughed. I laughed the hardest.”

Immelman’s model uses candidates’ personality traits to predict which contender will resonate most favorably with independent voters, who make up roughly one-third of the electorate and frequently base their choice primarily on a candidate’s personal qualities rather than party allegiance.

The model looks at some key personality traits that voters respond positively to during campaigns, including whether a candidate is introverted or extraverted and how narcissistic, dominant and conscientious they are.

Trump and Clinton scored equally high on narcissism, while Clinton scored slightly higher on dominance than Trump, Immelman said.

However, while Trump scored very high as an extravert, Clinton is far more introverted, Immelman said. Introverted candidates — past examples include Al Gore and Jeb Bush — have more difficulty interacting with people on the campaign trail.

And Clinton is highly conscientious, but Trump scored close to zero, Immelman said. While conscientiousness might be an admirable trait in a president, it’s not always an attractive feature in a candidate.

“She’s very prepared and programmed, and very prudent and cautious,” he said.

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University professor Aubrey Immelman describes his personality profile of Donald Trump Wednesday, Nov. 16, at CSB. (Photo: Jason Wachter / St. Cloud Times)

Immelman wasn’t sure about his findings. His model assumes that all the candidates are vetted politicians who have served in Congress or as governor. He wondered how it might be affected by Trump’s unconventional background.

“It turned out it was pretty robust, which makes it a pretty powerful predictor, I think,” he said.

Although most major polls inaccurately predicted a Clinton win, Immelman notes that he wasn’t the only academic who used social science models to get it right. He points to Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, and Helmut Norpoth, political science professor at Stony Brook University, who both projected a Trump victory.

Immelman calls his model simplistic, and said he’s never even considered it scientifically significant enough to have it reviewed by peers. He acknowledges that many factors, not just personality, played a role in Trump’s win.

“It’s not the only factor that played a role,” Immelman said. “But I think it played a stronger than normal role, and there’s no way that the polls can account for personality variables.”

Immelman notes that his model only predicts the ability of a candidate to get elected, not how well they will do in office.

“When it comes to governing, actually, I don’t think it predicts success,” he said.


Related interest

2016 Election Oracles: These People Predicted Trump Would Win

By Jessica McBride
November 12, 2016

Meet the election oracles … they predicted Donald Trump’s rise. They’re mostly professors, although two pollsters also got it right, and one media personality (Michael Moore). Some are economics researchers.

The lofty, slick, and respected forecasting sites – The New York Times’ Upshot, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight – got it wrong, overwhelmingly prognosticating that Hillary Clinton would win the election (although Silver was closer than others). The Upshot thought Clinton had an 85% chance, and most of the pundits and pollsters generally agreed. …

However, not everyone got it wrong. Some professors and pollsters proved to be election day oracles. Many of them report being ridiculed, insulted, and labeled as crazy – until the actual results came in, that is. …

Read the full report


Related reports on this site

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

Getty Images

Clinton vs. Trump: Predicting the 2016 Presidential Election Results (Nov. 8, 2016)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photo credit: AP)

The Personality Profile of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump (Aug. 9, 2015)

Trump poster (2016)
Click on image for larger view

More » The Political Personality of 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:

The Personality Profile of 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton (July 27, 2016)

Click on image for larger view

More » The Political Personality of 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (34 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:

2 Responses to “Presidential Electability Index Predicted Donald Trump Win”
  1. Aubrey Immelman Says:

    Excerpts from an email (dated August 20, 2015) to St. Cloud Times opinion page editor Randy Krebs in which Aubrey Immelman first raised the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican primary and the 2016 presidential election, based purely on Trump’s psychological profile.

    From: Immelman, Aubrey
    Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2015 2:20 PM
    To: Krebs, Randy
    Subject: Re: Presidential candidate occasional series


    The 5 p.m. deadline sounds good. […]

    Trump is a fascinating phenom from my psychological perspective. Prior to his PEI score of 62 the most personally talented candidates I’ve studied were:

    Bill Clinton 37
    Michele Bachmann 32
    George W. Bush 31
    Barack Obama 28

    I said in the kicker, a lot can change in the next year, but at this point I won’t be completely shocked if Trump wins it all.



  2. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Would Barack Obama Beat Donald Trump in a Hypothetical Matchup? Says:

    […] Presidential Electability Index Predicted Donald Trump Win (Dec. 19, 2016) […]

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