Personality May Play Role In Electability

This story was written by Saja Hindi, Technician


Republican presidential candidate John McCain said that the 2008 presidential campaign was not about issues but about personality.

And while North Carolina State University Associate Professor Steven Greene disagrees, he said he does think temperament and personality do play a role in the election.

"He wants it to be about experience and such, not all policy. But people are worried about the economy and they want to change from Bush policies," Greene said. "He's trying to put it on what he sees as more favorable terrain."

Still, temperament and personality have a real impact, Greene said.

"We really do evaluate presidential candidates as human beings," he said. "We're really looking primarily at what we see as their competence, their ability to get the job done, things like that."

Voters, Greene said, also want someone who is empathetic and has integrity.

Like presidential candidates before him, McCain has his own traits that people attribute to his personality.

"There's his maverickness if you will," Greene said. "He's a straight-shooter -- part of his personality."

While Greene said McCain has positive characteristics about him, it's his experience that is playing for him in this election rather than his temperament.

And that's partly why the Republican vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, was based somewhat on personality.

"Certainly she's really energized the base even more than they anticipated," he said. "There was a huge initial surge of energy coming from that pick."

Obama, on the other hand, does something different for voters, Greene said.

"[Democratic Presidential candidate Barack] Obama clearly inspires hope and optimism to a degree not seen in a long time," he said. "His personality is more of a feature in this election than John McCain's personality."

Derek Gatlin, a senior in sociology, said for some people, personality and temperament do play a role in who they vote for, and both candidates have memorable personality traits.

"McCain is kind of seen as too hot to deal with... but on the flip side, Obama was sometimes seen as too cool," he said.

Gatlin said an example of McCain's hot-headedness was his pausing his campaign during the week of the economic bailout package proposal.

"It was very detrimental to his campaign," Gatlin said.

As for Obama's coolness, Gatlin said an instance where it was portrayed was during the Saddleback interview where he was asked about abortion and Obama calmly addressed the issue "when people weren't looking for that."

Both candidates though, Gatlin said, have traits that will help them lead.

"One of the things that I don't think is said enough is the personality traits of both of these candidates is they're both very patriotic," he said.

And while Greene stressed that these traits don't affect the votes completely, they do have an effect.

"Intelligence, sadly, voters don't seem to care as much about," he said.

Despite the Palin pick though, Greene said voters still are leaning more toward the Democrats.

"No matter how much you love the vice presidential candidate, it still is the vice presidential candidate," he said.

And while Palin did gain some votes for the Republicans in this election, she also lost them some, Greene said.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, on the other hand, may not have highly distinguishable character traits, but he hasn't lost the Democrats votes, he said.

"He was a very nice copliment to Obama," Greene said. "He didn't bring Obama any more votes if any. Palin has cost McCain votes."

Biden, Greene said, didn't need the excitement.

"He proved to be a very smart pick," he said.

The candidate provided the sense of a steady hand and was a reassurance for people, Greene said.

"It gave people full confidence that he was up for the job and ready to step up," he said.

Biden provided Obama with the foreign policy experience people said Obama lacked, Greene said.

"For Obama, the smart move was the safe pick," Green said. "And as we saw, the smart move was the safe pick. And as we saw, it was received quite positively by the media."
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