Charisma and narcissism gets votes, study shows

The study uses the 2016 election of Donald Trump as an example of a leader utilizing these traits to their advantage.


Photo by Tony Harp, U.S. Air National Guard

Alexander Rodriguez, News Editor

A new study published by a Florida Atlantic University business professor and her co-authors finds having charisma and narcissism can attract votes in a presidential election.


Ethlyn Williams, an FAU associate professor of management in the College of Business says those traits may have swayed votes towards Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.


“Leaders with charisma get stronger responses from followers. Often the leader that is viewed as more charismatic gets more support and better outcomes from followers,” Williams said.


Having narcissism, or self-admiration, is a common characteristic among U.S. presidents, according to Williams.


The study also says this behavior often neutralizes the “negative effects of a narcissistic personality” and causes many voters believe the individual has a strong ability to lead, despite their flaws.


“The positive aspects include self-confidence and authority in decision making,” Williams said. “It appears from our research that several factors affect followers when they assess leaders and they take in to account the negative and positive aspects of each leader in deciding who to support.”


The surveys used in the study were administered two weeks before and one week after the 2016 election. The 426 participants answered questions on leadership and leader evaluations for both Trump and Clinton.


Another major factor that can influence a voter’s decision is the saturation of media coverage before an election.


“The media provides access to presidential candidates for voters who have likely never met the individuals on the ballot,” Williams said.


The study notes that while Trump’s charismatic narcissism “appears strong” to his supporters, further research about how voters feel about the effectiveness these qualities over time is not yet available.


“This is what I emphasize in the leadership courses that I teach, along with providing access to tools to help students reflect on their interactions with others to build the emotional intelligence or emotional maturity needed to be an effective leader,” Williams said.


Alexander Rodriguez is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet @AARodriguezz93