What Voters Most Want: Honesty or Intelligence?

Voters’ party affiliation determines which personality traits are most desirable in a president.

iStockphoto

Partisan differences between Democrats and Republicans are increasingly stark – and may now even extend to the character traits voters look for in a president.

Recent research conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies and GroupSolver finds that while all voters value “honesty,” “intelligence” and “leadership” in a candidate, Democrats, Republicans and Independents differ significantly in the priorities they put on these traits.

In a qualitative online study using the GroupSolver platform, we asked 500 American voters what the most important characteristics a candidate for president should have.

All of our respondents said they valued honesty, intelligence, and leadership, regardless of region, race, age, gender, party, or the amount of attention being paid to the upcoming election. But both Democrats and Independents said they were looking for honesty and leadership first and foremost, while Republicans placed intelligence ahead of both.

What Voters Want in a President

Source: Lincoln Park Strategies and Group Solver Inc.

Partisan differences were also increasingly pronounced for the traits voters named as lower priorities. While Democrats ranked being “trustworthy” and “having integrity” fourth and fifth among their most desired traits, Independents said they valued wisdom more than integrity. And unlike either Democrats or Independents, Republicans put “confidence” into their top tier traits.

Perhaps most telling are the differences in the traits rounding out the top ten named by each group. While Democrats are looking for a candidate who has the ability “to learn new information quickly” and is “open to all opinions,” Republicans want a candidate who “speaks plainly” and “has strong instincts.” Independents, on the other hand, are looking for a candidate who is “fair” and “cares about what the people want.”

Source: Lincoln Park Strategies and Group Solver Inc.

These partisan differences in voter preferences have been illustrated in the recent Democratic debate and the two Republican debates so far. On the one hand, Republicans have rewarded candidates such as Carly Fiorina, who have demonstrated their leadership and confidence on the debate stage. But they are still drawn to Donald Trump, who does not get bogged down in complicated topics but rather repeats his strengths and his opponents’ weaknesses in everyday vernacular while emphasizing his success in business due to his strong instincts. When it comes to the Republican electorate, Donald Trump is checking off the boxes that they are looking for.

The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, displayed the characteristics their voters, as well as independents, are looking for. In contrast to the brash, bullying behavior that was common at the GOP debates, the Democratic debate was measured, civil and focused on substantive issues that catered to Democrats’ and Independents’ preferences for fairness and inclusion.

While all Americans agree on the basic traits they want in their leaders, partisan preferences in the “personalities” of the candidates they prefer offer an interesting window into why some candidates are succeeding with what appear to be untraditional tactics.

And as a reminder for any Democrats watching the GOP debate and vice versa, these candidates are not trying to speak to you. At least not yet.

Stefan Hankin and Rasto Ivanic

Stefan Hankin and Rasto Ivanic are, respectively, the President and Founder of Lincoln Park Strategies and the President and CEO of GroupSolver Inc.