I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not usually very tuned into politics. I am a registered voter, however, and this will be the first presidential election in which I will be eligible to vote. That being said, I was excited to see the first presidential debate for a number of reasons. For one, I thought the debate would be a great chance to see a bit more of the true colors of each of the candidates – unfortunately I still can’t decide if that was true or not.
While watching GMA last week I remember one of the correspondents saying how important it would be for each candidate to try to turn the tides on his image. For Romney the key would be to come across as less strange, for the President to portray himself as less condescending.
I think this our general interest in not only the candidate’s personalities, but also how they are about to manipulate them shows a lot about leadership. The public’s focus on the persona of each candidate speaks volumes about how important behavior and public image is in making a truly effective leader. As much as we like to believe we all vote based on the issues, the truth is a lot of politics boils down to making the people like you. Personality also affects a leader’s effectiveness since your personality plays into how you decide to tackle issues and solve problems.
In this article from the Huffington Post, Benjamin Knoll, Assistant Professor of Government at Centre College, points out that despite what we may want to think the two candidates actually have a lot of personality traits in common. Using software that analyzes and creates a personality profile based on transcripts of speech, Knoll found that Romney and Obama have many traits in common including self-confidence, task focus and a need for power.
I think we saw some of these traits during the debate. On Twitter, many viewers commented on each candidate’s facial expressions including Romney’s smirking and Obama’s apparent inability to look his opponent in the face.
As a viewer and voted, I think it made both candidates come off as arrogant and haughty. Romney’s smirk did nothing to help me relate to him on a personal level and Obama’s obvious impatience and frustration with the debate made him seem condescending. On some level, I think they displayed their emotions in different ways but were essentially exhibiting signs of the same attitude. Neither one seemed interested in listening so much as spouting off his own agenda.
Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter indicated that the content of the debate was far less important than the delivery method. Personality outweighed political viewpoint.
Perhaps its because after months of campaigning we all feel like we know where the candidates stand on the issues – now we just want to know how they stand.
Sidenote: Worst leadership of the night award should go to moderator Jim Lehrer, who couldn’t seem to keep either candidate in line.
By Lauren Saria