Established in 1999, the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics (USPP) is a collaborative faculty–student research program in the psychology of politics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, directed by Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.
The Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is operated solely for research and educational purposes. The Unit does not advocate support for or defeat of any candidate for any political office. Political analysis published by the director or research associates of the Unit is the personal opinion of those individuals, based on empirical analysis of personality in politics and the influence of personality traits on high-level leadership.
USPP collaborators present studies of 2016 U.S. presidential candidates at St. John’s University on April 21, 2016.
The mission of the Unit is to conduct psychological assessments of candidates for public office and to disseminate the findings to professionals, the media, and the voting public.
USPP launches study of Democratic presidential contenders — March 2019
Data collection has begun at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics for a study of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, similar to the study of Republican contenders conducted in the spring of 2015.
Selecting presidential contenders for profiling
Considering the finite resources and the labor-intensive nature of research at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, the large field of credible announced and prospective Democratic candidates poses practical difficulties: (1) how to select the four to six subjects most likely to advance deep into the primaries and (2) how to ensure the eventual nominee is included in the initial subject pool.
Based on a rational-intuitive evaluation of viability in terms of polling data and informal observation of personality-based electability/political impact criteria, our preliminary pool of target subjects is the following:
We already have data on Joe Biden (2008) and Bernie Sanders (2016) from previous presidential campaigns, so Biden and Sanders are essentially default selections, considering both are among the top-5 frontrunners in current polling.
Amy Klobuchar, although at the bottom of the top 5 prospective candidates in the polls, happens to be our local senator (Minnesota), so we are better acquainted with her than with other contenders at the outset.
Update — June 1, 2019
Preliminary data collection and analysis have been completed. Pages for the initial five candidates studied may be viewed by clicking on the hyperlinked candidate names above. Studies of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are currently in progress, with an anticipated release date of June 25, 2019.
April 25, 2019
Psychological profiles of world leaders presented at ISPP — July 5, 2018
Aubrey Immelman presents his paper on “The political personality of 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump” at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, Texas, July 4-7, 2018.
Ganna Diedkova presents the results of her research, with Christ’l De Landtsheer, on “The value of electability in a hybrid regime: Comparing personality profiles of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his opponent Alexei Navalny” at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, Texas, July 4-7, 2018.
USPP releases new research report — June 11, 2018
The Leadership Style of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., June 10, 2018. Abstract and full text available for download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/120/
USPP releases new research report — April 8, 2018
The Personality Profile of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., April 1, 2018. Abstract and full text available for download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/119/
USPP presents latest research findings — April 27, 2018
The Personality Profile of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
Research poster presented by Katlin Rice, Austen Luetmer, Suntina Spehar, Hillary Rethlake, Lucas Vetsch, Amanda Olson, and Mariah Ogden-Kellington, 18th Annual Celebrating Scholarship & Creativity Day, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, St. Joseph and Collegeville, Minn., April 26, 2018. (Faculty advisor: Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.)
On February 27-28, 2019, U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will have a second summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam.
PowerPoint: Kim Jong Un Psychological Profile
On July 16, 2018, U.S. president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin will have a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
The Political Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (36 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/104/
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. (Paper presented at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, TX, July 4-7, 2018.) Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/103/
The Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (14 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/107/
Study currently in progress
Kim Jong-un’s Extreme Makeover (Robin Stein, Ainara Tiefenthäler, and Natalie Reneau, New York Times, April 28, 2018) — How did North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, go from being an international pariah to a smiling diplomat in a matter of a few months? (03:02)
Latest update: March 9, 2019
Update: March 14, 2019
North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launch Facility: No new activity since March 8 (Jack Liu, Peter Makowsky, and Jenny Town, 38 North, March 13, 2019) — Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) shows no changes to the launch pad or engine test stand between March 8 and March 13. … Full report
Update: March 16, 2019
The U.S. and North Korea are back to talking tough (Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, March 16, 2019) — The attack dogs have been let loose. That much was clear from the stark message North Korea delivered this week after the collapse of Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam last month: Kim is considering abandoning nuclear negotiations with the United States and resuming the nuclear and missile tests that brought the two countries to the brink of war early on in the Trump administration. … The unmuzzling of the attack dogs on each side is a reminder that Trump and Kim are each contending with a hard-line faction at home that views the diplomacy they’re engaged in as a hopeless and dangerous endeavor. As [North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui] noted this week, Kim decided to press ahead with diplomacy in Vietnam despite the fact that military leaders are petitioning him not to give up his nuclear program. … Full report
Update: March 22, 2019
President Donald Trump’s early afternoon tweet sent the international community scrambling.
Trump tweeted the administration would withdraw additional sanctions against North Korea … even though those additional sanctions had just been announced by his own administration.
The White House declined to give details on the sudden policy shift, but said Trump was pulling back newly issued sanctions because he “likes” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, according to CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kylie Atwood.
It was not immediately clear which sanctions Trump was referring to in his tweet. But just 24 hours earlier, the Treasury Department announced sanctions targeting two Chinese shipping companies that have allegedly helped North Korea skirt sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
Visiting scholar: Jenny Town — January 31, 2019
Jenny Town is a research analyst at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., and managing editor and producer of 38 North, a web-journal providing analysis on events in and around the DPRK. She is the former assistant director of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she managed programs on North Korea, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and energy security in Northeast Asia. She is an expert reviewer for Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Index, where she previously worked on the Human Rights in North Korea project.
Prior to working in Korean affairs, she was the communications director for Peace X Peace; the director of the Washington (DC) office/special projects manager for government relations at the College Board; and a project manager at Clarity Coverdale Fury Advertising, Inc. She holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies and International Relations from Westmar University and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She is a senior fellow of the Melton Foundation and sits on the board of directors for Korean Focus.
Previous studies available for download
Index of psychological studies of U.S. presidents and presidential candidates, foreign leaders, and prominent terrorist figures conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics » http://personality-politics.org/2017-19-media-tipsheet/
Work at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is dedicated to the memory of Theodore Millon, Ph.D., D.Sc.