Philosopher-King or Polarizing Politician? A Personality Profile of Barack Obama

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Abstract

Although U.S. President Barack Obama received extensive media coverage during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign and later during the first two years of his presidency, many people still perceive him as elusive, or even contradictory. Using biographical facts and objective at-a-distance measures, this article presents a personality profile of Obama. The profile is organized around a fourfold conception of personality. Personality can be understood as the residue of past and present social contexts and is publicly visible as traits or consistencies of style. Internal beliefs, values, and other cognitions, as well as implicit motives, can only be indirectly observed and so are measured through content analysis. The resulting profile is used to explain some outcomes, as well as paradoxes and puzzles of Obama's performance as president. It also suggests predictions about the future course of his presidency.

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