Home — Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

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.

USPP founding members Jennie Scott, Aví Bahadoor, Aubrey Immelman (director), and Jason Bartos. USPP contributors Scott, Bahadoor, and Bartos, along with Kelly Kalla and Dale Fredrickson (not pictured) presented their research on the political personalities of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, and George W. Bush at the 2000 Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in April 2000.

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Purpose

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.

Mission

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.

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St. John’s University

Related links

USPP on ResearchGate » https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aubrey_Immelman

USPP on Digital Commons » https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs

Former USPP website (1999-2008) » http://uspp.csbsju.edu

USPP research reports and analysis (2008-2016) » Immelman.us

USPP on Twitter » @PolPsyProfiling


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/2017-20-media-tipsheet/


Psychology Faculty Publications


Diana Symons, Associate Director for Learning and Research at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, instructs USPP summer 2019 research assistants Cassidy Smith, Suntina Spehar, Austen Luetmer, and Annie Griebie in database research methods for a study of contenders for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, June 4, 2019.


Anticipating the Outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election


Historian who correctly predicted every election since 1984 makes his call
Fox News, October 30, 2020 — American University Professor Allan Lichtman joins ‘The Story’ to make his prediction on who will win the 2020 presidential election.

By Aubrey Immelman
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
November 1, 2020

On July 8, 2019, I announced that the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics’s Personal Electability Index (PEI) projected that none of the seven front-running Democratic contenders assessed at the USPP — in descending order of PEI scores Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren — would defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

At the time, this election-outcome forecast was at variance with contemporaneous polls, for example, an ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted June 28-July 1, 2019, that showed Trump losing against or statistically tied with the front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president:

Among all adults …, Joe Biden leads Trump by 14 points. But that narrows among the other four Democrats tested against Trump in this poll — an 8-point lead for Kamala Harris, a slight 7 points for Elizabeth Warren, 6 for Bernie Sanders and 4 for Pete Buttigieg.

In the past several months, I have frequently had to field inquiries regarding the status of a projection issued so far in advance of the election — nearly 16 months. For example, on September 29, Cambridge, Mass., psychiatrist John Martin-Joy, M.D., as part of his research for a Psychology Today blog on Joe Biden’s mental state, wrote in an email: “I’m curious if at this point you stand by the PEI’s prediction that Trump will win.”

I responded as follows:

Regarding my simple little PEI heuristic, I have no choice but to “stand by” it; after all, Trump’s personality has not changed significantly since I issued my prediction on July 8, 2019 — nor would one expect it to change at his age, save for organic reasons. … The PEI is blissfully unaware of SARS-CoV-2, the economy, the unemployment numbers, or Trump’s tax returns leaked to the NYT shortly before the election. An implicit assumption of the PEI model is a relatively typical or “normal” election cycle — say (metaphorically) within one standard deviation of the mean. If the PEI projection of a Trump win turns out to be correct, it should be considered strong suggestive evidence for the robustness of the model.

In practical terms, the point I was attempting to communicate to Dr. Martin-Joy was that the 2020 presidential election is taking place under highly unusual circumstances; in fact, some observers have referred to the political environment as “unprecedented.”

In that regard, it should be noted that the PEI heuristic model employs candidate personality traits, as publicly perceived, to predict which contender will resonate most favorably with independent and unaffiliated voters who base their voting choice primarily on the candidate’s personal qualities as publicly displayed rather than on party-political affiliation or allegiance. The implicit assumption is that the election occurs in a relatively typical, stable political environment in which the role of personality is not overwhelmed by strong situational forces (such as a global pandemic, a deep economic recession, high unemployment, social upheaval, or widespread civil unrest).

“Relatively typical” is in the eye of the beholder, but to invoke the normal curve metaphor, typicality can be defined as falling within one standard deviation of the mean (i.e., the general political environment in nearly 7 out of 10 election cycles). Of course, if social and economic circumstances surrounding the current presidential election truly are “unprecedented,” it could even be ventured that the 2020 presidential election is taking place in a political environment fully two standard deviations from the norm (i.e., more unusual than 9 out of 10 presidential election cycles).


Photo credits: Kevin Lamarque and Tom Brenner / Reuters

To conclude, I am not predicting the outcome of the presidential election, in which statistical models infinitely more sophisticated than my simple PEI heuristic give Joe Biden a 9-to-1 edge over Joe Biden. What I am asserting, however, is that — based solely on their respective personality profiles as assessed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics — it’s advantage Donald Trump.


Graphic: FiveThirtyEight (Nov. 1, 2020)


USPP releases new research report — September 1, 2020

The Political Personality of 2020 Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, September 2020. Abstract and link for full-text (26 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/131/


Annie Griebie concisely explains the conceptual framework, methodology, and results of the assessment of Sen. Kamala Harris’s personality and leadership style. (9:53)


USPP releases new research report — August 17, 2020

The Political Personality of 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, August 2020. Abstract and link for full-text (22 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/130/


Annie Griebie concisely explains the conceptual framework, methodology, and results of the assessment of Vice President Joe Biden’s personality and leadership style. (9:42)


Personality profile and leadership style analysis of President Donald Trump presented at ISPP — July 16, 2020


Aubrey Immelman presents his paper, with Anne Marie Griebie, on “The Personality Profile and Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Office” at the 43rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, July 16, 2020. The meeting, originally scheduled for Berlin, Germany, was conducted in virtual format due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Annie Griebie explains the scoring system used in the assessment of President Donald Trump’s personality as revealed in office.

The Personality Profile and Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Office. Paper presented at the 43rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Berlin, Germany, July 14-16, 2020. Abstract and link for full-text (71 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/129/


Annie Griebie briefly explains the conceptual framework, methodology, and results of her assessment of President Donald Trump’s personality as revealed in office. (9:39)


Announcement — February 20, 2020

Anne Marie Griebie

Annie-Griebie

College of St. Benedict junior premedical psychology major Anne Marie Griebie has been appointed Director of Undergraduate Research at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics for the spring 2020 academic semester.

Her duties include training students in Personality Psychology courses in data collection procedures and coordinating undergraduate group research projects on the personalities of U.S. president Donald Trump, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

Annie worked as a full-time research fellow at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics during the summer of 2019 and has been reappointed for summer 2020.


USPP completes study of Democratic presidential contenders — July 2019

Data collection has been completed for a study of viable 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, similar to the study of Republican contenders conducted during the 2016 election cycle.

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USPP associate Atarah Pinder presents her poster “The Political Personality of 2016 Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz” at Scholarship and Creativity Day, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, April 23, 2015.

Pages for the seven Democratic contenders studied may be viewed by clicking on the hyperlinked candidate names below.

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Pete Buttigieg
  3. Kamala Harris
  4. Amy Klobuchar
  5. Beto O’Rourke
  6. Bernie Sanders
  7. Elizabeth Warren

Paige Steinberg, Madison Sharp, Skya Jandt, Christian Giminez, and Sarah Lommel present their poster, “The Personality Profile of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019.


Psychological profiles of world leaders presented at ISPP — July 5, 2018

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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.

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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.

More » Psychological profiles of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un presented at International Society of Political Psychology

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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/

Members of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics research team on TV Asahi in Japan to provide analysis for the Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018. From left to right: Aubrey Immelman, Jim Hasselbrink, Anna Faerber, Joe Trenzeluk, Katelyn Hendrickson (screen shot courtesy TV Asahi).

Members of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics research team on TV Asahi in Japan to provide analysis for the Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018. From left to right: Aubrey Immelman, Jim Hasselbrink, Anna Faerber, Joe Trenzeluk, Katelyn Hendrickson (screen shot courtesy TV Asahi).


Featured presentation

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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

Personality-Dynamics

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Featured profiles

Compare the psychological profiles of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Putin-poster_revised Trump poster (July 2015)

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/


Work at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is dedicated to the memory of Theodore Millon, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Millon_Gold-Medal-Award_APA-2008

Dr. Theodore Millon receives the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Application of Psychology at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston, Mass.

Books and Other Media

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Featured Paper

Aubrey Immelman and Theodore Millon, October 17, 2002.

Immelman, A., & Millon, T. (2003, June). A research agenda for political personality and leadership studies: An evolutionary proposal. Unpublished manuscript, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, MN. Retrieved from Digital Commons website: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/124/