A psychological analysis of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, conducted in fall 2007 by Julie Seifert, Mick Lundstrum, and Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics revealed that Romney’s primary personality pattern is Conscientious-dutiful, with secondary features of the Dominant-asserting and Ambitious-confident patterns.
Following is a political-psychological analysis based on the 2007 study.
By Mick Lundstrum and Aubrey Immelman
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
January 11, 2008
Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate better known for his Mormon faith than for his policy positions, has been dogged by obstacles and setbacks on the campaign trail. In Iowa, where he had dumped nearly three-fifths of his campaign expenditure, he was blindsided by the come-from-nowhere Huckabee juggernaut. In New Hampshire, he was bested by a resuscitated back-from-the-dead McCain campaign.
By all appearances, Gov. Romney is an attractive candidate. He looks “presidential,” is well financed, and has a strong track record in business and government. Yet, despite an MBA and law degree from Harvard, a successful business career as management consultant and venture capitalist, president and CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, governor of Massachusetts, and chair of the Republican Governors’ Association, Romney has found little traction with Republican voters.
So, how do we account for Romney’s floundering campaign for Republican support?
Some have pointed to Romney’s Mormon beliefs, viewed with suspicion by elements of the Christian Evangelical Republican base. Others have pointed to his “flip-flop” on abortion. Another consideration, which has not received much air time in the media or in print, is Romney’s personality — those aspects of his typical modes of thinking, acting, and relating to others that remain relatively consistent over time and across situations.
For insight into this aspect Romney’s character, we generated a personality profile using a standard assessment procedure developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota. This is what we found.
Perhaps not surprising for someone with Romney’s academic and professional credentials, he emerged from the assessment as a highly conscientiousness personality. What is remarkable, however, is that few candidates for president can claim conscientiousness as a prominent trait — in the past several elections cycles, an exclusive club of losing candidates consisting of Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, Bill Bradley, and Al Gore.
People with Romney’s levels of conscientiousness are best described as “dutiful.” They are characteristically proper and dignified, dependable, and principled (though the latter trait is somewhat at variance with perceptions of Romney as a flip-flopper).
Above all, they are highly organized, which accounts for Romney’s roaring success in organizational and corporate management and financial restructuring. Dutiful and diligent, and adept at getting the job done without letting work accumulate, conscientious leaders are movers and shakers who are at the top of their game when making and implementing policy.
On the downside, conscientious persons can be rigid thinkers with a closed-minded tendency; as leaders, they are technocratic rather than visionary. For that reason, in high political office they may be better suited to the role of assistant to the chief executive — perhaps as vice president, cabinet secretary, or chief of staff.
With their attention to detail, their work ethic, and their prudence, conscientious persons are potentially good leaders; however, in the United States they usually have trouble attaining high-level political office, because of the difficulty they have connecting with voters and the media.
Like many politicians who strive for higher political office, Romney also has a pronounced dominant tendency — though not nearly as pervasive as the aggressive dominance of a Rudy Giuliani or the self-assertive boldness of a John McCain. Instead, it would be more accurate to describe Romney as merely assertive, strong-willed, and goal-directed.
Some aspects of Romney’s dominance reinforce his fundamental conscientious tendency — most notably his strong work ethic, proneness to cognitive inflexibility, and obstinacy, which suggests he may stay in the race longer than he remains a viable candidate. That said, leaders like Romney, with moderate levels of conscientiousness and dominance, generally are effective, deliberative leaders who make informed decisions and get things done.
In terms of his experience and psychological profile, Romney may be one of the better candidates for president, but as recent presidential election history has shown, he does not fit the profile of a successful presidential candidate.
Next Tuesday’s Republican primary in Michigan — where native son Mitt Romney has the rare advantage of contesting an early-primary state where his father once served as governor — will be the acid test for whether that particular chapter in U.S. election history repeats itself.
Note. A slightly revised version of this article was published as the “Your Turn” column Romney is conscientious and assertive in the St. Cloud Times (p. 5B), Jan. 15, 2008.
Related reports on this site
Why Mitt Romney Won’t Win (May 12, 2011)
Excerpt: Research conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics under the direction of Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., suggests that Massachusetts’ health law, enacted during Romney’s tenure as governor, may be the least of his problems as he vies for the Republican nomination in a crowded GOP field. Romney lacks the personal charisma to sway non-base voters, as measured by the Personal Electability Index for presidential contenders, developed at the Minnesota-based political psychology research unit.
Obama Campaign Tilting at Romney Windmill (Aug. 9, 2011)
Excerpt: The Obama campaign would be misguided if it diverted inordinate resources to fending off Mitt Romney as Barack Obama’s likely opponent. Despite being the early front-runner in public opinion polls, Romney is unlikely to be the Republican presidential nominee – or, if he is, to be a viable challenger to Barack Obama. … Specifically, Romney’s score of 6 on the Personal Electability Index (PEI), which has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1996, ranks near the bottom among presidential candidates I’ve studied in the past four presidential election cycles – slightly lower than John Kerry’s PEI score of 9 (though considerably better than Al Gore’s -17).
Personality Matters: Mitt Romney Has Al Gore Problem (Jan. 16, 2012)
Excerpt: A psychological analysis of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, conducted in fall 2007 by Julie Seifert, Mick Lundstrum, and Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics revealed that Romney’s primary personality pattern is Conscientious/dutiful, with secondary features of the Dominant/asserting and Ambitious/confident patterns — a personality pattern that does not predict presidential electoral success.
Mitt Romney’s Leadership Style (Aug. 30 2012)
Excerpt: A psychological profile of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics during Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, reveals that the Republican nominee is highly conscientious, with a personality type best described as a “dutiful conformist.” Specifically, Romney is primarily a Conscientious-dutiful personality, complemented by secondary Dominant-asserting, Ambitious-confident, and Accommodating-cooperative features and a minor Retiring-reserved tendency. Romney’s personality profile provides a stable framework for anticipating his likely leadership style as president, as outlined in this report of how Romney will govern, if elected.
‘I’ve never seen an enterprise in more desperate need of a turnaround than the U.S. government’
Race for 2012 GOP nomination heats up (NBC “Today,” June 1, 2010) – Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is to officially announce in New Hampshire that he’s running for president. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports on Romney as well as Sarah Palin’s bus tour and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter troubles. (03:30)
By Calvin Woodward and Nancy Benac
June 2, 2011
WASHINGTON — What are the odds of this? A guy gets into a head-on collision, has a police officer write “He is dead” at the scene, and lives to tell.
Mitt Romney knows a thing or two about second chances.
After that long-ago highway collision when he was a young missionary serving in France, Romney earned an outsized reputation and millions of dollars as a corporate turnaround artist, fixing bottom lines, cleaning up the scandal-tarred Salt Lake City Olympics and giving various other endeavors a second wind.
Now he is determined to do that for himself. (And his country, he would say.)
“I’ve never seen an enterprise in more desperate need of a turnaround than the U.S. government,” Romney says.
An also-ran to John McCain in the 2008 Republican nomination fight, Romney is the closest thing to a front-runner that the still-jelling GOP presidential field for 2012 has to offer. …
With his good looks, able fundraising, strong political organization, solid family and business acumen, Romney sounds like a candidate ordered from central casting to run in a time of economic stress.
But to succeed where he failed four years ago, Romney, 64, will need to convince voters that behind the picture-perfect presentation lurks a human being with a passion to lead and an unshakeable set of convictions.
Moderate or conservative?
The rap against Romney in 2008 was that he’d conveniently reinvented himself to fit the political environment of the day.
The man who’d governed Massachusetts as a pro-abortion rights moderate and delivered a bold statewide plan for universal health care coverage offered himself to Republicans as an anti-abortion social conservative who advocated limited government.
And that set off authenticity alarm bells with voters around the country. Pundits who thought his Mormon faith might be a problem for him concluded his changing political convictions probably caused him more grief.
This time around, Romney hopes the campaign for the GOP nomination will roll down his “power alley” — the economy and his business background — and away from social issues that bogged him down.
He’s coming across as a little looser in the process. After he got into a tiff with a rapper onboard an aircraft last year, the well-gelled Romney joked that the singer “broke my hair.”
Over the past four years, he wrote a book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” built a political machine and cultivated diverse friends.
The dust had hardly settled on the bruising nomination struggle of 2008 when Romney threw himself behind the candidate who had defeated him, began raising money for Republicans across the country and started pushing all the right buttons in the party.
Watching this unfold, Republican strategist Mary Matalin was struck by how Romney, in seeking common cause with the party’s religious, intellectual and economic forces, may have “the greatest potential to pull all those factions together” even though other candidates may stir more passion in their core followers. …
Son of George Romney, who was chairman of the old American Motors, a Michigan governor and failed Republican presidential hopeful in the 1960s, Willard Mitt Romney earned simultaneous law and business degrees at Harvard on his way to a high-flying corporate career that would take a turn to politics.
He worked for Boston Consulting Group, helping companies fatten their bottom lines. Then he moved to rival Bain & Co., where he led a new spinoff, Bain Capital, which combined management consulting with investments in promising companies.
He helped start or reinvigorate hundreds of companies, Staples and Domino’s Pizza among them, on his way to amassing a personal fortune.
It’s just the resume the country needs, says Romney, who calls Obama “one of the most ineffective presidents” he’s ever seen. …
Romney cemented his reputation as a turnaround artist when he stepped in to clean up the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, reeling with accusations of bribery and resignations from the organizing committee.
He cut costs, boosted revenues and oversaw a successful event despite the dark shadow over the nation from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
That made it a ripe time to reawaken his political ambition. Republicans recruited him to run for governor in deeply Democratic Massachusetts. Backed by $6 million of his own money, he won.
The combination of fiscally conservative and socially moderate policies he brought to that race proved a winning formula in the state, but complicated the 2008 primaries, which are dominated by conservative voters. His challenge then remains his challenge now on the road to 2012.
Research assistants Amanda Nusbaum and Feiran Chen presented their summer research project on “The Personality Profile of 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney” at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., July 30, 2012. The research was conducted under the auspices of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, directed by College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University associate professor of psychology Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — June 2, 2010
Top al-Qaida commander believed dead (NBC “Today,” June 1, 2010) – Mustafa al-Yazid, also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri, was a co-founder of the terrorism network and third in command. (01:58).
One year ago today, I reported that al-Qaida’s third in command, Mustafa al-Yazida (AKA Sheik Saeed al-Masri), had been killed in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan in one of the most severe blows to the terror movement since the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida began in 2001.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — June 2, 2009
An Air Force transfer team carries a transfer case containing the remains of Senior Airman Ashton Lynn Marie Goodman early Thursday, May 28, 2009 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Goodman, of Indianapolis, Ind., was killed by a bomb near the Bagram airfield in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Steve Ruark / AP)
Two years ago, on June 2, 2009, I reported that two roadside bombs killed four more American troops in Afghanistan as violence continued to mount and U.S. casualties climbed to record levels.
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