Charismatic Presidents

Charisma And The Presidency: The Interesting Views Of Dean Keith Simonton

Dr . Dean Keith Simonton, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, has come up with an intriguing discussion of Charisma and the Presidency.

Having done research over a period of years on this topic, Simonton spoke on National Public Radio, and surprised listeners, including the author, by saying that early Presidents would not be considered to have charisma, as many of them hated speaking before large audiences, had a tendency to be shy and nervous in public gatherings, and would have had problems, therefore, being elected in the modern era. This would include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Only Andrew Jackson would be likely to seen as charismatic in a modern sense in the 19th century, meaning even Abraham Lincoln would not fit the image of being charismatic.

Modern Presidents who Simonton would consider charismatic would include Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. So he would consider only SEVEN Presidents as having had charisma by his definition.

Putting Lyndon B. Johnson on the list is quite surprising, and those not put on the list include Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama, also quite unexpected.

There is much room for thought here, with the definition of charisma itself in dispute, if Lincoln, Wilson and Obama are not judged to make the list, while LBJ is on the list.

Maybe it is because Lincoln, Wilson and Obama are all reserved, introverted types in the minds of psychologists, while Jackson, TR, FDR, JFK, LBJ, Reagan and Clinton are all, clearly, extroverts!

In any case, interesting and fascinating concept to think about and discuss!