Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Apr 4th, 2011

Obama Opens Bid for New Term, No Longer Outsider

President files paperwork 20 months from Election Day so he can begin raising money


President Obama kicks off reelection bid (NBC “Today,” April 4, 2011) — President Obama launched his reelection campaign early Monday morning with a web video. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports. (01:21)

April 4, 2011

WASHINGTON — No longer the fresh voice of change, President Barack Obama embarked on a bid for re-election Monday asking a divided, anxious electorate to let him finish the job they gave him in 2008. …

Obama began with an effort to recapture his outsider’s touch of 2008, bypassing a public statement from the White House in favor of an email sent to millions of supporters.

He offered a kickoff video in which official Washington is ignored and even Obama himself only makes a fleeting appearance. …

Obama filed his candidacy paperwork Monday, about 20 months from Election Day, so he can begin raising money in earnest for a potential campaign fund of $1 billion or more. More than a dozen Republicans are seriously considering trying to unseat him, but none has declared yet. …

Full story, including a rundown of potential Republican opponents

Michele Bachmann

Image: Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann
(Photo credit: Larry Downing / Reuters)

Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman has been busy with a slew of appearances in early primary and caucus states. After a four-day visit to Iowa in March, Bachmann declared “I’m in!” at several stops, saying she wanted to be a part of the 2012 “conversation.”

And despite making some high-profile gaffes (among them, declaring that the opening shots of the Revolutionary War took place in New Hampshire, not Massachusetts), she’s proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

“I’m getting a lot of encouragement to run from people across the country. I don’t believe this is a rash decision,” she told The New York Times.



Barack Obama’s Leadership Style (Feb. 21, 2009)

“The Personality Profile of President Barack Obama: Leadership Implications.” Research poster presented by Sarah Moore, 44th annual Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference, April 18, 2009, College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn. The research, conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, was directed by Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.

Summary of results

The profile reveals that Barack Obama is ambitious and confident; modestly dominant and self-asserting; accommodating, cooperative, and agreeable; somewhat outgoing and congenial; and relatively conscientious. The combination of ambitious and accommodating patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a “confident conciliator” personality composite.

Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special talent for settling differences and a preference for mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement, but also have substantial affiliation needs and a modest need for power.

The study offers an empirically based framework for anticipating Obama’s performance as chief executive. The following general predictions regarding Obama’s likely leadership style can be inferred from his personality profile:

  • Ambitious, self-assured, gracious, considerate
  • Preference for mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict
  • High need for achievement; moderate need for affiliation; low need for power
  • More pragmatic than ideological
  • More task- than relationship oriented
  • Likely to act as a strong advocate in his administration, using his powers of persuasion to advance his policy vision
  • Preference for gathering information from a variety of sources rather than relying solely on advisors and administration officials
  • In dealing with members of Congress, may show preference for avoiding unnecessary conflict by trying to remain above the fray in heated, highly divisive debates
  • Preference for articulating and defending his policies in person rather than relying on staff and administration officials to speak for him

Obama’s Decision-Making Style (Nov. 25, 2009)

Excerpts from Oprah Magazine

Aubrey Immelman, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in Minnesota, says the variable that most distinguishes Obama from the two previous presidents is conscientiousness — one of the “big five” personality factors in standard psychology (everyone has all five, in differing degrees; the others are openness to experience, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).

People who score high on the conscientiousness scale (as determined by several personality inventories) are dependable, orderly, self-disciplined, achievement oriented, cautious, industrious, and deliberate — the type who could, say, run a masterfully efficient political campaign, exercise daily, even while on the road, and make methodical decisions. (Those who score low tend to be careless, irresponsible, disorganized, and unreliable.)

Indeed, a 2000 study from the journal Assessment suggests that when it comes to presidents, conscientiousness is associated with greatness: George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman (all of whom historians rank among the country’s foremost leaders) scored in the 90th percentile and above for the trait, based on inventories completed by biographical experts. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were solidly conscientious (78th and 75th percentile); Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, however, came in at the 5th percentile. …

Full report

Barack Obama’s Personality Profile (Nov. 2, 2008)

Sarah Moore and Angela Rodgers present their research on “The Personality Profile of President Barack Obama: Leadership Implications” in the State Capitol rotunda, St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 19, 2009. The research, conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, was directed by Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.

Sen. Barack Obama: Is he tough enough?
By Aubrey Immelman
St. Cloud Times
Nov. 1, 2008

Among the many leaders I have studied — presidential candidates as well as foreign adversaries as a consultant to the U.S. military — Barack Obama is something of a rarity. … Read more


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 4, 2010

Bloody Easter in Baghdad

People leave a building destroyed by a car bomb attack near the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 4, 2010. Several Iraqi guards were killed in the attack near the Egyptian consulate, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said. (Photo credit: Karim Kadim / AP)

One year ago today, I reported that three car bombs shook central Baghdad in quick succession on Easter Sunday, killing at least 35 people.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — April 4, 2009

Bachmann Climate Change Forum

Two years ago today, on April 4, 2009, I provided an update on the security situation in North Korea and reported that Rep. Michele Bachmann announced forums in St. Cloud and Woodbury to debunk global climate change and President Obama’s proposed carbon “cap and tax” plans, featuring Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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