Candidates' Personality and the Outcome of U.S. Presidential Elections

25 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2013

See all articles by Andreas Graefe

Andreas Graefe

Macromedia University of Applied Sciences

Date Written: April 4, 2013


The five-factor personality model is used to calculate personality scores of U.S. presidential candidates, based on how voters rated the candidates on 69 trait adjectives. These scores are then used to predict the election results from 1972 to 2012. In ten of the eleven elections, the candidate with the higher score won the election. A simple linear regression of the final vote shares on the personality scores provided forecasts that were competitive with those from eight established political economy models. Perceptions of candidates’ personalities predict well because they incorporate much information about the electoral context, such as the state of the economy and candidates’ issue-handling competence. When controlling for such factors, however, the remaining influence of personality on the election result is small and rarely decides elections.

Keywords: election forecasting, Big Five, forecast accuracy, presidential elections, personality perceptions

JEL Classification: C2, C53

Suggested Citation

Graefe, Andreas, Candidates' Personality and the Outcome of U.S. Presidential Elections (April 4, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Andreas Graefe (Contact Author)

Macromedia University of Applied Sciences ( email )

Sandstrasse 9
Munich, Bavaria 80337


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