President Obama was calm in stressful situations

Politics & Communication

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump: In the race for the White House, the image of the former lawyer and that of the entrepreneur diverge widely: there is the cool, intellectual, energetic Clinton. There the irritable, entertaining, rough Trump. Are their personality traits really that far apart? How can this be systematically investigated?

The five factor model of personality

The five-factor model offers a solution: the so-called Big Five comprise the personality factors neuroticism, extraversion, openness to new experiences, tolerance and conscientiousness, which have a biological basis and have been determined in 50 years of empirical research and mathematical-statistical analyzes. The classification model has a hierarchical structure: the factor neuroticism includes, for example, the sub-factor irritability, to which behavior "often gets angry when criticized" belongs.

The Big Five have also become the standard around the world outside of personality psychology. We therefore know that a high neuroticism score is a risk factor for health, a high extraversion score promotes well-being, a high openness score influences the ability to learn, a high tolerance score leads to deeper relationships, and a high conscientiousness score predicts performance in school and work. Political research also uses the five-factor model to examine the personality of politicians and voters. In practice, the Big Five are used, for example, to select and develop managers and employees.

For the present analysis, I conducted a literature and media research to gather personality-related information about Clinton and Trump. These were extracted from biographies, articles, videos, websites and photos. I then assessed both applicants using a Big Five personality questionnaire (see figure for results). It should be noted that the sub-factors for each factor, i.e. characteristics such as fearful, angry, sad, can be different in a person.


Neuroticism factor relates to the difference in response to stress. People with high scores are more emotionally sensitive and more likely to get out of whack. They tend to be fearful, angry, sad, ashamed, instinctual, and vulnerable.

Clinton doesn't seem scared. She bravely tackled many of the challenges in her career and remained calm in stressful situations. However, she can get angry when something doesn't go the way she wants it to. In addition, she does not seem particularly worried and not very socially inhibited. She is evidently very good at resisting temptations, and has dealt robustly with defeats in her career. This results in her having a low neuroticism score. This can be seen in the fact that she ran again despite the defeat against Obama in 2008. The same goes for her decision to become a senator after being betrayed by her husband as first lady.

Trump is fearless and never avoids a fight. He gets angry easily, is optimistic and confident. He does not smoke or drink and can mostly control his needs. He seems to be indestructible and can cope well with difficult situations. As a result, he has a below-average neuroticism score. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that he entered the Republican primary campaign as an outsider, addressed controversial issues and, despite fierce criticism and rejection, firmly believed in becoming the next US president.


The extraversion trait captures the difference in finding rewards. People with high scores need crowds and exciting situations to feel good about themselves. They are warm, sociable, assertive, active, hungry for adventure and happy.

Clinton is considered to be quite reserved in dealing with people and seems to feel more comfortable in small groups. There she is dominant and takes the leadership position. She is known for her energetic action. Her need for thrills is not very pronounced, and most of the time she does not seem cheerful either. The extent of the extraversion factor is therefore in the medium range. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that she sometimes reacts coolly to questions from reporters, has not given a press conference for months and generally radiates little warmth to strangers, but on the other hand mingles with people, prevailed against her competitor Sanders and visited 112 countries as foreign minister .

Trump can quickly establish contact with other people and be friendly. He enjoys large group company, is very assertive, and leads a very busy life. He is willing to take risks and seems to experience more positive emotions than others. Its extraversion value is therefore quite high. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that he was the first to visit those affected by the flooding in Louisiana, inspire the audience at election campaign events, visibly enjoy his appearances, fill his little time with meetings, calls, Twitter messages and interviews and as "news -Junkie "is called.

Openness to experience

The factor openness to experience describes the difference in interest in new experiences and impressions. People with high scores are imaginative, interested in art, open-minded, eager to experiment, inquisitive and non-conformist.

Clinton is a realistic person and is partly interested in art. She controls her emotions and is open to new actions if she associates them with a goal. She is attracted to intellectual challenges. It leans towards liberal positions, but it also has traditional values. This is why she has an average level of openness to experience. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that she regards politics as the implementation of what is feasible and rarely jumped in the air for joy, but changed from being a fashion victim to an elegant power woman and wants to know a lot. In addition, she has a firm belief, advocates minorities and describes herself as conservative at heart and liberal at heart.

Trump is not a daydreamer, but a practical one. He is hardly interested in art. He clearly perceives some feelings. He usually sticks to tried and tested behavior, theoretical questions bore him, and he tends to adopt conservative principles. This results in a low value for the characteristic openness to experience. This can be seen, for example, when he implements construction projects for which he has works of art on a building destroyed, in that he avoids self-analyzes, ignores scientific findings on climate change and has internalized values ​​such as "hard work".


The dimension of compatibility refers to the difference in behavior and attitudes towards other people and in social relationships. High valued individuals trust others and are sincere, considerate, forgiving, humble, and kind-hearted.

Clinton tends to be skeptical, calculating, and willing to interpret the truth in their favor of others. She is committed to the welfare of others and rarely gives in to conflicts. She considers herself superior and called, even if she rarely expresses it publicly. On the one hand she is addressed by the need of others, on the other hand she also relies on rationality and logic in relationships. Their tolerance is therefore below average. This was shown when she had friends-and-foe lists drawn up in the 2008 pre-election campaign. Further examples: She justified the use of her private e-mail server for business purposes with convenience, she criticized Obama's lack of military aid for the Syrian rebels and also blamed the women for her husband's sexual adventures.

Trump is very suspicious, cunning, and self-centered. He also wants to win disputes at all costs. He brags about his successes and considers himself the greatest. Situations in which he shows compassion are the exception. Its value for the compatibility factor is therefore quite low. This becomes apparent, for example, when he says that people cannot be trusted if he threatens to run as an independent if the Republicans should not support him if he belittles opponents, does not accept "no" as an answer and says he will the greatest workplace president God ever created.


The conscientiousness factor measures the difference in impulse control and self-control to achieve goals. People with high values ​​are convinced of their competence, are orderly, conscientious, hardworking and self-disciplined and act prudently.

Clinton considers herself very capable of coping with life, she is always an organized and systematic person. Religious and ethical principles are very important to her. She works hard to achieve her goals and perseveres in pursuing them. She does tasks without hesitation. She thinks carefully before doing anything. She therefore has a very high conscientiousness value. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that she believes that she is very well qualified for the office of president, was very ambitious as a senator and feels committed to the principles of her Methodist faith.

Trump is convinced of his very high level of competence. Order and cleanliness are very important to him, but moral rules are only partially. He is very ambitious and strong-willed. Usually he thinks before acting, but he can also decide spontaneously. This gives him a high score for the conscientiousness factor. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that he thinks that he can achieve anything with his special abilities, that he always appears "peeled from the egg" and has a germ phobia.

The Big Five values ​​of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Figure 1: The characteristics of the Big Five personality factors of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump according to the author's assessment using the NEO personality inventory measurement instrument according to Costa and McCrae. Average values ​​on a scale from 0 = very low to 4 = very high. For comparison, the results of a representative German sample of 871 people are also given (according to Ostendorf & Angleitner, 2004).

Information on sources and references can be found here.


The analysis shows clear differences between Clinton and Trump in terms of extraversion and openness to new experiences. The differences in the factors neuroticism, tolerance and conscientiousness are smaller. With their very high values ​​for the sub-factors assertiveness (extraversion) and striving for achievement (conscientiousness), both have characteristics that are critical to success. Whether Hillary will move into the White House as Machiavelli or "The Donald" as the prophet ("Time Magazine"), however, also depends on the personality of the voters - and on events before the election to which one of the two reacts better because of his personality can.