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American Politics | Leadership Studies | Other Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts


This paper reports the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of U.S. senator Bernie Sanders — a contender for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election — from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon. Information concerning Sanders was collected from biographical sources and media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with DSM-III-R, DSM-IV, and DSM-5.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Sanders’s primary personality pattern was found to be Dominant/asserting, complemented by secondary Dauntless/adventurous and Ambitious/confident patterns and infused with a Contentious/resolute tendency.

Based on his overall personality configuration, Sanders may be characterized as a deliberative nonconformist: tough, strong-willed, and outspoken; fearless, daring, and attracted to challenge; self-confident, persuasive, and competitive; and resolute, with a strong oppositional streak. As president, leaders with Sanders’s personality profile can be expected be deliberative but low on interpersonality (more aloof than interactive), temperamentally active–negative, and more skilled in mobilizing supporters than in consummating policy objectives.


The research was conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics (USPP), a collaborative faculty–student research program in the psychology of politics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minnesota, directed by Aubrey Immelman, PhD, associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.

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