Donald Trump

The Personality Profile of 2020 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump

Related page: “The Personality Profile of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump” »

Studies conducted during the 2016 presidential campaign

The Political Personality of 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:

Executive summary: Donald Trump’s predominant personality patterns are Ambitious/exploitative (a measure of narcissism) and Outgoing/impulsive, infused with secondary features of the Dominant/controlling pattern and supplemented by a Dauntless/adventurous tendency. This particular personality composite can be labeled amorous narcissism or, in political terms, high-dominance charismatic — charismatic by virtue of the highly elevated primary Ambitious–Outgoing amalgam.

The Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, 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:

Executive summary: Donald Trump’s core personality-based leadership traits may be summarized as follows: an active-positive presidential character with mobilization — the ability to arouse, engage, and direct the public — as his key leadership asset; an overall leadership style that is distinctively charismatic and nondeliberative; and a high-dominance, extraverted, influential foreign policy orientation.


Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Personality Profile of U.S. President Donald J. Trump
as Revealed in Office

By Aubrey Immelman and Anne Marie Griebie

Forthcoming: July 2020

Preliminary data analysis indicates that Donald Trump’s primary personality pattern during his presidency remains Ambitious/exploitative (a measure of narcissism) but that the equally prominent Outgoing/impulsive pattern observed during Trump’s presidential campaign has retreated to secondary status during President Trump’s incumbency.

Trump’s overall personality profile continues to show a distinctive Dominant/controlling pattern (a measure of aggressiveness) with subsidiary Dauntless/dissenting features. A novel finding, awaiting empirical confirmation, is an incipient Erratic/unstable tendency (a measure of borderline personality functioning) emerging during Trump’s time in office.

As predicted on the basis of his pre-inaugural personality profile, Trump’s executive leadership has been bold, competitive, and self-assured; impulsive and undisciplined; tough and directive; and disruptively tradition-defying, with an inclination to shade the truth and skirt the law.


January 6, 2020

How will President Trump respond to Iranian retaliation for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani?

The two guiding principles of behavioral forecasting based on psychological profiling are:

  1. Personality directs — and therefore predicts — behavior.
  2. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Based on (1) empirical studies of Donald Trump’s personality profile and leadership style conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics and (2) rational-intuitive inference derived from President Trump’s observed behavior in office, the following general expectancies present themselves with reference to Trump’s likely response to Iran’s anticipated retaliation for the targeted killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Key personality traits driving President Trump’s behavior

Donald Trump is bold, self-assured, and levelheaded under pressure and in the face of adversity; is a dramatic attention‑getter more inclined to precipitous action than to indecision; enjoys the power to take charge, evoke respect, and seeing that the job gets done; is tough, competitive, and unsentimental; and is willing to flout tradition, acting autonomously in accordance with his personal goals and preferences.

Relevant indicators from President Trump’s past behavior

Donald Trump prides himself on “promises made, promises kept” and completing projects on- or ahead of schedule; is motivated to extricate the United States from “endless wars”; is driven to project military power to buttress U.S. prestige and national security; and is generally explicit in stating his intent.

General expectancies for President Trump’s response to Iranian reprisal

  • President Trump is highly unlikely to order a full-scale war such as George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War (1991) or George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).
  • President Trump is unlikely to escalate the current standoff with Iran in the absence of revenge operations by the Iranian regime or its proxies.
  • President Trump is likely to respond proportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States, provided no U.S. nationals are harmed (but may incrementally escalate counterattacks if revenge attacks persist).
  • President Trump is likely to respond disproportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States if U.S. nationals are killed or injured.
  • President Trump is likely to respond with overwhelming force to attacks by Iran or its proxies within the United States or its territories.

Catalog of topical tweets by Donald J. Trump

Update: January 8, 2020

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif announces standdown after “proportionate” retaliation

Donald Trump takes the off-ramp in Iran confrontation (Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN, Jan. 8, 2020) — President Donald Trump decided Wednesday that taking his foot off the gas in the rapidly escalating conflict between the United States and Iran was the right move. … Trump [delivered] the message that, despite Iran launching more than a dozen missile strikes at two sites in Iraq less than 24 hours ago, he was comfortable with calling an end to the outright hostilities. … He added: “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties and a good thing for the world.” … Trump’s measured tone on Wednesday was a striking contrast to his approach to the Iranians just days ago on Twitter. … It’s not clear what had changed Trump’s mind — and tone — over the days between those tweets and his address on Wednesday. Perhaps it was that the missile strikes resulted in no deaths. Or that the Iranians had given Iraq a heads up that the strikes were coming. Or that Trump’s administration has grown increasingly certain that Iran purposely targeted sites and areas where no one would be killed as a way to retaliate for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani without starting a broader conflict. …

December 15, 2019

Responding to Kim Jong-un’s “Christmas surprise”

On December 14 the New York Times reported:

A second test [at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station] of what appeared to be an advanced missile engine, part of what North Korea said on Saturday was part of a “reliable strategic nuclear deterrent,” left little doubt that the country is moving quickly toward resuming the program that led to a crisis with Washington two years ago. … It was the second such test in a week, and came after weeks of increasingly vocal attempts to press the United States into further talks and new concessions. … American analysts and intelligence experts said they believe the ground test … was intended as a signal that the country could soon resume testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Analysts have speculated an ICBM test might occur after the end of December, a deadline Kim Jong-un imposed for the U.S. to resume negotiations and provide sanctions relief.

In its report, the New York Times quotes Pak Jong-chon, chief of the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army, as saying: “We should be ready to cope with political and military provocations of the hostile forces, and be familiar with both dialogue and confrontation” and that the U.S. and its allies would “spend the year-end in peace only when they hold off any words and deeds rattling us” — signaling that amid stalled diplomacy “the voice of North Korea’s hard-line military was rising,” according to Cheong Seong-chang, vice president of research planning at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

In conjunction with the North Korean foreign ministry’s veiled threat in early December that North Korea was preparing a surprise “Christmas gift” for the United States, the latest rhetoric emanating from the DPRK sounds ominous.

Left: Image of King Tongmyong from a North Korean book. Right: Image of Kim Jong-un, courtesy of KCNA. (Photo composite by Jean Lee /The Wilson Center)

Analysis: How should the U.S. respond?

  1. In planning its response, the U.S. should exercise caution in ascertaining the personal policy preferences of Kim Jong-un and distinguishing between that and the intent of hardliners in the DPRK military establishment.
  2. To the extent that Kim is losing ground in his grip on power vis-à-vis the top military leadership, the U.S. could strengthen Kim’s hand by giving due consideration to the resumption of personal diplomacy between the two nations’ leaders as a complement to the continuation of working-level talks.
  3. It would be prudent to delay any significant response or intervention until after evaluating the tone, and learning more about the details, of Kim’s policy options in his annual New Year’s Day speech.
  4. In the context of the central role of personal diplomacy in the US-DPRK nuclear negotiations, consider that with the specter of impeachment and the uncertainty of Donald Trump’s reelection as president, Kim might be reluctant to strike a deal at the present juncture, preferring to adopt a wait-and-see attitude; thus, it would be prudent to exercise patience and avoid any abrupt policy reversals.