James David Barber's

The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House








ADAPTIVE: self-confident; flexible; creates opportunities for action; enjoys the exercise of power, does not take himself too seriously; optimistic; emphasizes the "rational mastery" of his environment; power used as a means to achieve beneficial results.

Thomas Jefferson, 
F. D. Roosevelt, 
H. Truman, 
J. F. Kennedy, 
G. Ford, 
G. W. Bush(?)

COMPULSIVE: power as a means to self-realization; expends great energy on tasks but derives little joy; preoccupied with whether he is failing or succeeding; low self-esteem; inclined to rigidity and pessimism; highly driven; problem managing aggression.

John Adams, 
W. Wilson,
H. Hoover, 
A. Lincoln,
L. B. Johnson,
R. Nixon,




COMPLIANT: seek to be loved; easily manipulated; low self-esteem is overcome by ingratiating personality; reacts rather than initiates; superficially optimistic.

James Madison, 
W. H. Taft, 
W. Harding, 
R. Reagan,
Bill Clinton

WITHDRAWN: responds to a sense of duty; avoid power; low self-esteem compensated by service to others; responds rather than initiates; avoids conflict and uncertainty. emphasizes principles and procedures and an aversion to politicking.

George Washington, 
C. Coolidge, 
D. Eisenhower 


James David Barber James Barber differentiates between four types of presidential character: active-positive; active-negative; passive-positive; and passive-negative. Before voters cast their ballots for president, they should know how active the candidate is and whether or not he or she truly enjoys political life. This allows voters to predict presidential performance before the candidate takes office.

Source: "Presidential Character and How to Foresee It," chapter 1 of The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House, 4th ed., by James David Barber, pp. 1-1 1, 493. 1992. Reprinted by permission of Prentice-Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, N.J. In “Documents and Readings for American Government” Brian Fife, Worth Publishing

For additional information go to Dr. McGuire's Web page

See Also:  http://spot.colorado.edu/~mcguire/BARBERSC.html

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