McCain vs. Obama: Whose Personality May Elicit More Votes?

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

Leadership Postulate for this Blog: Each candidate’s personality is the instrument of his leadership. Mind, body and emotions – put them all together, and you’ve got a personality, which becomes your delivery system. We say that many people will vote based upon the appeal of each candidate’s delivery system.

Research Findings to Support this Blog: UCLA conducted a study on content versus process in communication awareness and reported that people place only 7 percent of their awareness on content (actual words spoken), while 38 percent goes to the tone of voice, with the remaining 55 percent focused on body language.

Have you ever watched McCain and Obama debate? Not just listened to their words, but watched how they carried themselves while responding to each other? Looking at the candidates’ body language or listening to their tone and inflection of voice may not tell you a lot about their stance on certain issues, but it will definitely give you insight into not only their leadership styles but also how their leadership styles are perceived.

When McCain makes a statement, he typically stands firmly and holds onto both sides of the podium. Obama, on the other hand, appears more relaxed. He strolls around, swinging his opposite arm with the opposite leg, and tends to have a forward-looking gaze. When McCain does move around, he sometimes adopts a right-left style of walking where he shifts his weight. His gestures are directional, suggesting that he is bridging a gap, whereas Obama’s shaping arm movements indicate accommodation. (

But there are also similarities between the two that contrast with our recent presidents. Both appear to be private people – there are thoughts and emotions inside of them that we can’t see, indicating a private decision-making process. President Bush and President Clinton tended to wear their emotions on their faces. (

The senators should probably pay close attention to how they present themselves. Before humans develop the language ability, they communicate visually. And when it comes time to vote, people without the knowledge of the issues at hand may pick their candidate based on what they see and the tonal quality they hear, rather than the actual message their words are delivering. Will they pick the candidate who appears stable and secure? Or will voters pick the one who moves more freely and seems to be looking for a change?

  • This blog is the first in a series of blogs that will examine Obama and McCain’s personal leadership styles. With the presidential election rapidly approaching, we thought it would be interesting to study the similarities and differences between the two. Leadership involves much more than just saying what needs to be done and expecting it to happen, and it will be interesting to see how the two candidates approach our country’s voters.


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