ArticlePDF Available

The "Big Five" Personality Traits of Presidents and the Relaxation of Term Limits in Latin America



Thirty-one presidents from every Latin American country-excluding Mexico-who were governing from 1945-2012 tried forty times to change the constitution of their countries to overstay in office. These attempts often caused severe political instability. Current explanations of the variability of term limits have centered on the context in which presidents govern despite the protagonism of the leaders in the constitutional changes. I argue that the personality traits of presidents are an important driver of their overreaching behavior. Centered on the paradigm of the "Big Five," I propose hypotheses about a causal relationship between each of the five core personality factors-openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism-and the presidents' attempts to alter their term limits. To test the theory, I use data about presidents who governed from 1945-2012. The results of a discrete-time duration analysis show that three of the Big Five are associated to the likelihood of observing a president changing term limits. I conclude by discussing how this research agenda should be extended to uncover how the uniqueness of the leaders explains relevant outcomes in executive politics.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage:
The “Big Five” personality traits of presidents and
the relaxation of term limits in Latin America
Ignacio Arana Araya
To cite this article: Ignacio Arana Araya (2021): The “Big Five” personality traits of
presidents and the relaxation of term limits in Latin America, Democratization, DOI:
To link to this article:
Published online: 06 Aug 2021.
Submit your article to this journal
View related articles
View Crossmark data
The Big Fivepersonality traits of presidents and the
relaxation of term limits in Latin America
Ignacio Arana Araya
Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Thirty-one presidents from every Latin American country excluding Mexico who
were governing from 1945 to 2012 tried forty times to change the constitution of
their countries to overstay in oce. These attempts often caused severe political
instability. Current explanations of the variability of term limits have centred on
the context in which presidents govern despite the protagonism of the leaders in
the constitutional changes. I argue that the personality traits of presidents are
an important driver of their overreaching behaviour. Centred on the paradigm of
the Big Five,I propose hypotheses about a causal relationship between each of
the ve core personality factors openness to experience, conscientiousness,
extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism and the presidentsattempts to alter
their term limits. To test the theory, I use data about presidents who governed
from 1945 to 2012. The results of a discrete-time duration analysis show that three
of the Big Five are associated to the likelihood of observing a president changing
term limits. I conclude by discussing how this research agenda should be extended
to uncover how the uniqueness of the leaders explains relevant outcomes in
executive politics.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 10 December 2020; Accepted 15 July 2021
KEYWORDS Presidents; term limits; Big Five; personality traits; Latin America
Presidents from every Latin American country but Mexico who were governing
from 1945 to 2012 tried to change or bypass the constitutions of their countries
to relax their term limits. Thirty-one leaders, 10% of all presidents who governed
for at least six months, tried forty times to loosen their term limits, and succeeded
on twenty-nine occasions (see the list in the online appendix). These attempts took
place across all regime types, and the leaders who succeeded retained power. This
overreaching behaviour allowed several heads of government to attain historical
prominence. For example, Juan Domingo Perón, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, and
Hugo Chávez dramatically changed the political paths of Argentina, Bolivia, Nicar-
agua, and Venezuela, respectively. Nonetheless, the consolidation of presidential
authority often led to the erosion of democratic norms and institutions, and even
to regime changes. Although there is a growing literature about the conditions
that lead to changes in term limits, it has mostly centred on the context in
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Ignacio Arana Araya
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed at
which presidents operate. Therefore, preceding research has obviated how the
uniqueness of presidents relates to their overreaching behaviour. This article pro-
poses for the rst time a theory that associates the Big Five personality traits of pre-
sidents to their attempts to relax their term limits.
Scholars tend to agree that presidents who alter or bypass the constitution to remain
in oce erode political institutions and mine the foundations of the rule of law, signal-
ling that institutions can become a political weapon at the service of those who control
Researchers have also discussed how the incumbency advantage that accompa-
nies the relaxation of term limits dampens political competition.
Successful attempts
made some scholars fear that overreaching presidents cannot be stopped and that they
may feel invincible.
In fact, many presidents who relax their term limits once, try
Research that has studied term limits have provided numerous insights on how the
institutional and political context explain the relaxation of term limits. However, exist-
ing explanations suer an important key omission: the individual dierences of presi-
dents. Although there is a research stream that has discussed the reasons why and how
Latin American leaders have tried to change their term limits,
a systematic compari-
son of the individual dierences of overreaching presidents is still missing in a region
were personalismo has undermined democracy.
Historically, presidents have been protagonists of the constitutional reforms that
have allowed them to loosen their term limits. Arguably, chief executives have
strong motivations to relax their term limits. They can extend the privileges of
holding power, achieve their policy goals, and increase their inuence due to their
enhanced capacity to enforce promises in intertemporal negotiations. Relaxing term
limits may also express a desire to stay in power unrestrictedly.
This article argues that the personality traits of leaders are necessary to under-
stand why certain leaders try to challenge existing term limits. It centres on the
Big Fivecore personality traits, a paradigm that has shown to be robust across
virtually all cultures.
The argument advanced implies treating the personality
traits of presidents as independent variables.
This approach allows us to answer
pressing questions about the relative importance of the uniqueness of presidents
in specic contexts.
It also enables us to revisit research in which presidential per-
sonalities were not considered as explanatory factors, even when they should have
been considered as such.
Why do presidents attempt to relax term limits?
Scholars have centred on four arguments to explain the instability of term limits. A rst
argument has focused on executive-legislative relations because presidents almost
always need congressional support to reform the constitution. Some authors
propose that institutionalized ruling parties have strong incentives to oppose over-
reaching leaders. Corrales argues that these parties do not have an urge to break the
rules to remain in power because they have a long-life expectancy, and therefore
expect to regain the presidency.
Furthermore, party leaders may also aspire to the
presidency, and therefore favour elite circulation. Kouba adds that institutionalized
parties can constrain presidents because heads of government need them to be
elected and to govern.
In contrast, deinstitutionalized parties are more submissive
to their leaders because their electoral fate is tied to them. The author found
support for the hypothesis after analysing all Latin American presidents elected from
1990 to 2013.
Researchers have also explored the role of the presidentslegislative support. Oppo-
sition parties who expect to control the executive power are expected to ght incum-
bents who want to remain in oce.
However, opposition parties may be willing to
support the exibilization of term limits if they acquire concessions from the presi-
especially if they expect constitutional reforms to be inevitable and do not
anticipate to soon attain the presidency.
Another relevant factor in the executive-legislative argument centres on legislative
fractionalization. Negretto proposes and nds that electorally strong parties are
likely to favour permissive reelection rules because they expect to win the presidency,
while fragmented legislatures prefer more restrictive rules due to the uncertainty of
future electoral results.
McKie also associates electoral contests to constitutional
instability, claiming that low electoral competition induces strong parties to adopt per-
missive term limits. McKie found support for her argument after examining the 221
presidents from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who faced the end
of their terms from 1975 to 2018. In contrast, Lucardi and Almaraz propose that leg-
islative fragmentation does not lead to restrictive rules because it allows executives to
oer selective payos to opposition parties.
A second argument centres on the presidentsinstitutional capacity to change term
limits. This capacity is expected to be contingent on dierent factors. One is formal
constitutional powers: Kouba proposes that strong presidents are likely to enjoy
greater bargaining capacity to advance term limit changes.
Another factor is the
reelection rule. When it is fully proscribed, presidents face more opposition to relax
their term limits because the rule has become ingrained and most political actors
accept it.
The case of Mexico may be illustrative: its revolution started as an uprising
against the reelection of Porrio Díaz. The one-term limit adopted in 1911 and then
enshrined in the 1917 constitution has been enforced since then except between
1927 and 1933, when a second non-consecutive term was constitutionally allowed.
A third factor is constitutional rigidity. Constitutions that are more dicult to
amend experience fewer amendments,
constraining the presidentscapacity to
modify the charter.
A third argument asserts that presidents are more inclined to relax their term limits
when they can inuence the judiciary.
Some presidential attempts to reform the con-
stitution have been deferred to courts. In these cases, independent courts can veto
overreaching presidents. For example, the Constitutional Tribunal of Colombia pre-
vented a third candidacy of Álvaro Uribe by declaring that his 2010 attempt to relax
term limits through a referendum was unconstitutional. However, leaders who infor-
mally control courts can use them to advance their reforms.
Anal argument centres on material motivations. Baturo proposed that leaders
have more incentives to stay in power as the value of holding oce increases.
argued that oces are more attractive in poorer countries and when there are
plenty of opportunities to extract rents from the economy. In these cases, heads of gov-
ernment are expected to see the oce as a source of personal wealth. In contrast, step-
ping down may involve losing immunity and nancial stress. Similarly, Guliyev
claimed that post-communist countries abundant in natural resources oer presidents
opportunities for patronage and clientelism that, in turn, can help them cling to
The Big Five and term limits
This article argues that the personalities of presidents explain their attempts to relax
their term limits. It centres on the Big Five factors of personality: openness to experi-
ence, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The Big Five
became the reigning personality paradigm in the nineties after decades of research
that analysed the language that people use to describe themselves and others.
In par-
allel to the consolidation of this paradigm, a consensus that personality traits tend to be
stable over time
and robust across virtually all cultures solidied.
The fact that personality traits are stable, universal, measurable, and that they
strongly impact our behaviour
allows us to treat them as explanatory factors in situ-
ations in which the uniqueness of individuals might become relevant. Unsurprisingly,
the Big Five paradigm has sparked personality research in dierent social science dis-
ciplines, including political science.
A small subset within this research programme
has examined the Big Five of presidents.
Following Arana, there are numerous situations in which the personalities of
leaders can have an impact on the presidency.
Presidents have a unique relationship
with civil servants, voters, the legislature, the judiciary, and foreign actors. The charac-
teristics of leaders shape their behaviour, and therefore the outcomes we attribute to
them. Furthermore, the unique traits of leaders have electoral eects because voters
evaluate their personalities when deciding whom to support.
Treating presidents merely as faceless rational actors who tried to adjust their term
limits based on their chances of success is an untenable assumption. Several of the
leaders who tried to remove their term limits did so under an unfavourable insti-
tutional environment. For example, presidents did not have a majority support in
the legislature in nine of the forty attempts to relax term limits, and in twenty-seven
of the attempts, the existing constitution demanded the support of at least three-
fths of the legislature to be amended. In contrast, most leaders who enjoyed a
majority in Congress or exible constitutions did not try to alter their term limits.
Examining the personalities of leaders allows us to have a deeper understanding of
the presidentsself-serving attempts to retain oce.
Openness to experience
This trait reects how broadly and deeply people think.
People high in openness tend
to be imaginative, intellectually curious, sensitive to aesthetics, attentive to inner feel-
ings, self-directed, sensation-seekers, adventurous, and prefer novel forms of stimu-
High openness to experience is related to unconventional behaviour, while
low openness is reected in cautiousness and traditional thinking.
It is also the
trait most consistently associated with intelligence.
Research has documented that openness is positively associated with leftist ideol-
ogies both among politicians
and non-politicians.
Among average citizens, high
openness has been related to being more interested in politics.
Centred on American
presidents, Rubenzer et al. found that presidents who are more open to experience tend
to perform better in oce.
The authors interpreted their nding as an expression of
the higher cognitive abilities linked to openness.
I hypothesize that presidents high in this trait are more likely to try to relax their
term limits. Overreaching leaders engage in a non-conventional behaviour; only a
minority of presidents attempt to adapt the constitution to their preferences, and they
often engage in creative ways to remove their term limits.
For example, Evo Morales
of Bolivia was able to push the limits on reelection three times, rst with the enactment
of a new constitution and then with the subservient support of the Supreme Court in
2013 and the Constitutional Court in 2017. Third, presidents need to be adventurous
in trying to remove their term limits because the endeavour involves many uncertain-
ties and may fail. That happened to former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who
in 2009 was ousted by the military to prevent him from overstaying in oce. Finally,
openness has been associated with charismatic leadership.
Certainly, the ability of
presidents to motivate followers is instrumental for a self-serving reform. The legend-
ary appeal of Argentinean President Juan Domingo Perón helped him in the 1949 con-
stitutional reform that allowed his 1951 reelection.
Conscientious individuals embrace an organized life and adhere to discipline and
responsibility. They tend to exercise self-control, be ecient, industrious, and strive
for success.
Conscientiousness is also associated to motivational stability, making
plans and carrying them out in an organized way.
Unsurprisingly, this trait is
linked to academic achievement at dierent ages.
In contrast, low conscientiousness
is related to being lazy and careless.
Just as openness has been associated to the political left, high conscientiousness has
been related to conservatism.
The association seems straightforward given that con-
scientious individuals prefer order, social status quo, and hierarchies.
I hypothesize that conscientiousness is negatively associated to the presidential
attempts to remove term limits. The adherence to order, responsibility, and the
status quo are antithetical to these attempts. Such overreaching behaviour represents
a harsh departure from the status quo and breaks democratic norms of behaviour,
often onsetting political backlash.
Extraverted people tend to be warm, social, outspoken, active, high-spirited, dominant,
and excitement-seekers.
Extraverts enjoy social interactions, look for social support
in case of stress,
and tend to develop larger social networks.
As individuals open to
experience, extraverts are more likely to be considered charismatic. In contrast, intro-
verts are less spontaneous, more serious, and socially reserved.
Extraverted individuals tend to participate more in politics. For example, they are
more likely to discuss politics
and have a stronger party identication.
centred on Italy found that politicians tend to be more extraverted than other citi-
The authors attributed the result in part to the politicianshigher need to be
energetic and to persuade and lead others.
I hypothesize that the presidentsextraversion is unrelated to presidential attempts
to relax term limits because its constituent characteristics push into dierent direc-
tions. Arguably, the dominant facet of extraverts should make leaders strongly
dislike leaving oce. Dominant individuals tend to lead and to control their circum-
stances, so they should not only enjoy staying in power but also have the skills to retain
it. Furthermore, the excitement-seeking nature of extraverts should also make them
feel comfortable in pursuing a self-serving constitutional reform. However, the warmth
and sociability of extraverts are traits that should deter overreaching attempts that
inevitably spark a political backlash and lead to political confrontations. That would
explain why former President LulaDa Silva of Brazil, who was a highly popular
extravert that enjoyed a congressional majority, did not try to overstay in oce.
This trait reects a disposition to maintain social stability and to be considerate of
othersneeds and feelings.
Agreeable individuals tend to have pro-social behaviours,
be cooperative, tolerant, trusting, warm, polite, generous, kind, tender-minded, com-
passionate, and empathetic.
They do not like to impose their will on others. Instead,
they avoid conict and enjoy positive social relations. Disagreeable people are selsh,
outspoken, and demanding.
In contrast to extraversion, agreeableness has been related to less engagement in
political discussion networks.
Webster claims that this occurs because agreeable indi-
viduals are less likely to engage in political arguments with others, especially in periods
of high polarization.
The author also nds that agreeableness decreases the degree to
which individuals negatively view an opposing party. Agreeableness has also been
associated to political failure. After studying elected Belgians, Joly, Soroka, &
Loewen found that agreeableness is associated with lower chances of being elected,
time in oce, and access to a political position.
I hypothesize that agreeableness is negatively related to the presidential attempts to
relax term limits. Presidents who prioritize to cooperate and have good relations with
other political actors are unlikely to engage in an overreaching behaviour that will
cause antagonism and opposition, and that will demand them to impose their will
on others. Precisely, such overreaching behaviour is more akin to notoriously disagree-
able leaders such as Fidel Castro, Evo Morales, and Hugo Chávez, all of whom removed
term limits to remain in power.
This trait reects susceptibility to threat and the negative emotions that it sparks.
It is
associated to impulsiveness, self-consciousness, irritation, anxiety, depression, vulner-
ability, low self-esteem, and negative moods.
People high in neuroticism have more
negative social interactions, engage in avoidance coping, and elude thinking about or
doing challenging things.
The opposite of this trait is emotional stability, expressed in
condence, calm, and detachment.
Mondak and Halperin found that higher neuroticism is related to stronger political
frustration and anger.
That might explain why politicians have been found to be less
neurotic than the general population.
Schoen and Schumann found that high neur-
oticism is linked to a greater likelihood of voting for parties that provide a notion of
security in Germany.
I hypothesize that neuroticism is positively associated to the presidential attempts to
loosen term limits. Like extraversion, the constituent facets of this trait seem to push
into opposite directions. The anxiety and negative feelings associated with neuroticism
could push presidents to avoid exposing themselves to challenging initiatives.
However, heads of government have already shown not to shy away from challenges
in their pursuit of power. Presidents have not avoided campaigns, public speaking,
negotiations, and debates. Instead, the prospect of losing power should spark negative
feelings. Neurotic leaders should be more willing to believe that, once stepping down
from oce, their rivals will go after them. There have been many cases where Latin
American leaders face litigations, exile, or prison after leaving the executive power.
Presidents high in neuroticism may perceive that losing oce is a bigger threat than
the challenges entailed in relaxing term limits. Impulsiveness, frustration, and anger
are strong drivers of action, and the dissatisfaction of losing power should push neu-
rotic-prone presidents to change term limits.
Empirical analysis
The sample consists of 152 presidents who governed from 1945 to 2012 for at least six
The end of World War II is used as the starting point because it allows cov-
ering a large sample. Unfortunately, it is extremely dicult to nd information about
many leaders for earlier years, especially heads of government from small and poorer
The unit of analysis is president-year and excludes the years in which chief execu-
tives did not face term limits (15% of the period). Democratic and nondemocratic
leaders are included because, although they govern under dierent institutions and
practices, they have motivations to try to adjust the constitution to their preferences
and face challenges in such attempts. That explains why presidential attempts took
place across regime types: fourteen in democracies, fourteen in semidemocracies,
and twelve in autocracies. In any case, below I address whether the results change
when nondemocratic rulers are excluded.
To capture presidential behaviour, the dependent variable takes the value of one
when a leader attempted to change the constitution to relax his or her term limits
and zero if otherwise. Therefore, constitutional adjustments that only aected sub-
sequent leaders are excluded. Presidents are considered to have attempted to relax
their term limits when they make a public, recorded attempt. These attempts were
identied from biographical data.
The successful attempts identied were corrobo-
rated with an examination of the national constitutions.
Because prominent individuals may be unreachable or unwilling to participate in
personality studies, researchers have developed techniques such as psychobiographies,
content analysis, historiometry, and expert surveys to study them at a distance. In this
study, the presidentsBig Five was measured using an online survey lled out by
Conducting the expert survey avoided the validity problems that may
emerge when using other at-a-distance methods that demand the examination of
documents, such as content analysis and historiometric research. While nding
reliable biographies was unfeasible for most of the leaders in the sample, identifying
experts was possible because many scholars on presidents can be found at universities,
think tanks, and media outlets. Therefore, consulting experts allowed access to the
most reliable and updated information.
To identify experts, a research team followed several steps. A search was conducted
in the WorldCat database using the keywords presidentsand presidentes (for Spanish
and Portuguese), as well as dierent versions of the leadersnames. Second, scholarly
publications about the leaders were examined in Google Scholar and Amazon. Third,
nearly 50 professional organizations of historians, political scientists, and journalists
were asked to identify potential experts. Finally, survey participants were asked to rec-
ommend scholars qualied to assess leaders.
In total, 361 experts from 29 nationalities lled out 531 online surveys in English,
Spanish, or Portuguese, assessing 152 leaders.
The mean number of evaluators per
head of state is three, sucient for making reliable psychological analyses.
Notably, the participants were highly knowledgeable about the presidents; 216 ques-
tionnaires were answered by evaluators who had met the leaders at least once. To
account for potential biases, experts provided their gender, age, nationality, city of
residence, educational attainment, sympathy towards the president, approval of the
leaders performance, number of times they met the chief of state (and if the contact
was professional, friendly, or familiar), and their ideology.
The measure of the Big Five is taken from the Big Five Inventory (BFI).
As shown
in Table 1, the BFI is composed of 44-items that measures the Big Five through short,
accessible phrases. Noticeably, the phrases are unrelated to political behaviour and
respondents were unaware of how the phrases relate to each personality trait. Respon-
dents were also asked to reect on the presidentscharacteristics before they reached
oce, so their behaviour in the executive branch would not contaminate their percep-
tions. As is conventional in expert surveys,
the score for each leader represents the
average value that respondents assigned to them. For each factor, the scale ranged
between one and ve.
Some potential concerns with the sample are that presidents may have similar per-
sonality traits and that there could be systematic cross-country dierences. Figure 1
addresses these concerns, showing that there is notable variation across the personality
Table 1. Big-ve inventory.
Here are a number of personality traits that may or may not apply to the president. Please indicate the extent to
which you agree or disagree with the following statements*:
(1) Was talkative
(2) Tended to nd fault with others
(3) Did a thorough job
(4) Was depressed, blue
(5) Was original, came up with new ideas
(6) Was reserved
(7) Was helpful and unselsh with others
(8) Could be somewhat careless
(9) Was relaxed, handled stress well
(10) Was curious about many dierent things
(11) Was full of energy
(12) Started quarrels with others
(13) Was a reliable worker
(14) Could be tense
(15) Was ingenious, a deep thinker
(16) Generated a lot of enthusiasm
(17) Had a forgiving nature
(18) Tended to be disorganized
(19) Worried a lot
(20) Had an active imagination
(21) Tended to be quiet
(22) Was generally trusting
(23) Tended to be lazy
(24) Was emotionally stable, not easily upset
(25) Was inventive
(26) Had an assertive personality
(27) Could be cold and aloof
(28) Persevered until the task was nished
(29) Could be moody
(30) Valued artistic, aesthetic experiences
(31) Was sometimes shy, inhibited
(32) Was considerate and kind to almost everyone
(33) Did things eciently
(34) Remained calm in tense situations
(35) Preferred work that is routine
(36) Was outgoing, sociable
(37) Was sometimes rude to others
(38) Made plans and follows through with them
(39) Got nervous easily
(40) Liked to reect, play w ith ideas
(41) Had few artistic interests
(42) Liked to cooperate with others
(43) Was easily distracted
(44) Was sophisticated in art, music, or literature
Source: Benet-Martinez and John (1998).
*Options: Strongly disagree,”“Disagree,”“Neither agree nor disagree,”“Agree,and Strongly agree.
traits of presidents and that they do not follow a country pattern. Ultimately, whether
the variation observed has substantive eects is an empirical question one that is
addressed below.
Three variables capture the argument that associates executive-legislative relations
to changes in term limits.
Congress Support identies the proportion of the Lower
House that backs the president, Number of Parties measures the eective number of
parties in the Lower House, and, like preceding works
,Party Age is a proxy for
the institutionalization of the ruling party.
The argument about presidential strength is captured through ve variables. To
identify powerful presidencies, Legislative Powers and Non-Legislative Powers take
the value of one when presidential powers are one standard deviation above the
mean in Negrettos scale and zero if otherwise.
Negrettos database is used because
it is conceptually thorough and is the only one of its kind that covers the entire
period. No Reelection is a dichotomous variable that controls for the expectation
that presidents face more opposition when reelection is fully proscribed. Amendment
captures the requirements needed to change the constitution (i.e. constitutional
Figure 1. Big ve across countries.
rigidity). It ranges from zero, when there is no Congress or need of congressional
support, to ve, when the president needs more than two-thirds of the legislature to
reform the charter, plus an additional step (e.g. the support from a majority of state
legislatures). No Reelection and Amendment are taken from national constitutions.
Regime measures the competitiveness of access to power and is taken from V-Dems
Electoral Democracy Index.
It ranges from zero to one.
Higher Courts captures the argument about judicial independence by using a
measure of the extent to which the executive complies with court rulings and the judi-
ciary can act independently. It ranges from zero to one and is taken from V-Dems
Judicial Constraints on the Executive Index.
The proposition that presidents are
more likely to overstay in oce in poorer countries because the value of holding
oce in them is higher is captured through GDP per Capita (measured in 2000 US
$), a proxy for economic development. The source is the World Bank.
Since the dependent variable reects the presidentsattempts to change or bypass the
charters of their countries, and because the hypotheses refer to individual predictors, I
estimate discrete-time duration models in which the unit of analysis is president-year.
Using this technique, once a president tries to relax his or her term limits, the leader
becomes censored and drops from the sample. A longitudinal analysis is conducted to
consider how presidents time their attempts and to include controls that change over
time. Cubic polynomials are included to control for temporal dependence and mini-
mize biased estimations when using binary data.
Therefore, Time in Oce (also
squared and cubed) captures the years presidents have governed.
Table 2 presents seven probit models. Model 2.1 includes only the conventional
arguments about the extension of term limits. Model 2.2 adds the Big Five to 2.1
and presents the benchmark model. Model 2.3 only considers the successful presiden-
tial attempts to examine whether the results change if failed attempts are excluded.
Models 2.42.7 are robustness checks. Model 2.4 addresses the bias that could occur
if some of the expertscharacteristics aected their assessments. Inspired in previous
model 2.4 reruns 2.2, excluding experts who strongly approved or disap-
proved of the leadersperformances. The expertsapproval is excluded because it is
one of the two expertscharacteristics that correlated above .20 with one of the
scores the leaders received.
Model 2.5 follows the Heckmans two-stage procedure
and includes the Inverse Mills Ratio (IMR) as a variable.
This is done to account
for a potential censored selection eect that could occur because I did not nd
experts to assess 150 presidents (i.e. only certain types of leaders might have been
The sample would also be aected by endogeneity bias if experts assessed the pre-
sidentsBig Five based on whether the leaders tried to relax their term limits or not.
Endogeneity should not be a problem because, as mentioned, experts were asked to
reect on the presidentscharacteristics before they reached oce when completing
the survey. Additionally, the BFI phrases e.g. whether a leader was talkative”–
are unrelated to presidential behaviour. However, to be conservative, ve probit
extended regression models with instrumental variables (IV) were estimated. Due to
space constraints, they are presented in Table 3 in the online appendix. The results
Table 2. Presidential attempts to relax term limits.
(2.1) (2.2) (2.3) (2.4) (2.5) (2.6) (2.7)
No Extreme
Neither Puppets nor
Openness 1.11** 1.55** 0.91** 1.14** 1.22* 1.13**
(0.51) (0.77) (0.43) (0.53) (0.67) (0.51)
Conscientiousness 0.67* 0.65 0.80** 0.68* 0.35 0.69*
(0.36) (0.44) (0.38) (0.37) (0.45) (0.36)
Extraversion 0.29 1.13* 0.15 0.28 0.55 0.28
(0.33) (0.61) (0.33) (0.33) (0.40) (0.33)
Agreeableness 0.23 0.85 0.58 0.21 0.36 0.15
(0.37) (0.52) (0.43) (0.37) (0.47) (0.37)
Neuroticism 1.20** 1.05 0.96** 1.23** 1.85** 1.28**
(0.59) (0.82) (0.45) (0.62) (0.80) (0.59)
Congress Support 0.54 0.45 2.32 1.57 0.35 1.76 0.57
(0.86) (1.10) (1.54) (1.22) (1.15) (1.59) (1.11)
Number of Parties 0.07 0.01 0.04 0.15 0.03 0.14 0.01
(0.11) (0.13) (0.17) (0.15) (0.15) (0.18) (0.13)
Party Age (log) 0.28** 0.56*** 0.66** 0.63*** 0.56*** 0.73*** 0.57***
(0.12) (0.18) (0.26) (0.18) (0.18) (0.28) (0.18)
Leg. Powers 0.62* 0.78* 0.67 0.90** 0.78* 1.01 0.80*
(0.36) (0.45) (0.52) (0.45) (0.45) (0.67) (0.45)
Non-Leg. Powers 0.23 0.38 0.11 0.84 0.34 0.00 0.37
(0.62) (0.79) (0.96) (0.82) (0.80) (.) (0.79)
No Reelection 0.47 0.98** 0.40 0.77* 0.98** 1.31** 0.96**
(0.35) (0.45) (0.53) (0.42) (0.46) (0.56) (0.45)
Amendment 0.06 0.15 0.09 0.20 0.15 0.26 0.17
(0.10) (0.14) (0.18) (0.16) (0.14) (0.19) (0.14)
Regime 3.03** 2.52 4.45* 3.30* 2.59 0.85 2.46
(1.27) (1.67) (2.33) (1.75) (1.68) (1.83) (1.67)
Higher Courts 3.55*** 4.56*** 8.13*** 4.81*** 4.50*** 4.83*** 4.55***
(0.95) (1.24) (2.05) (1.32) (1.25) (1.70) (1.24)
GDP per Cap. (log) 0.14 0.26 1.35** 0.42 0.19 0.26 0.27
(0.27) (0.34) (0.60) (0.35) (0.42) (0.43) (0.34)
Time in Oce 0.80** 1.51*** 2.17** 1.69*** 1.53*** 1.26 1.55***
(0.35) (0.54) (0.94) (0.58) (0.55) (1.29) (0.55)
Table 2. Continued.
(2.1) (2.2) (2.3) (2.4) (2.5) (2.6) (2.7)
No Extreme
Neither Puppets nor
Time in Oce2 0.20** 0.33** 0.46** 0.38*** 0.33** 0.04 0.34***
(0.09) (0.13) (0.21) (0.14) (0.13) (0.56) (0.13)
Time in Oce3 0.01** 0.02** 0.03** 0.02*** 0.02** 0.03 0.02**
(0.01) (0.01) (0.01) (0.01) (0.01) (0.07) (0.01)
IMR 0.17
Constant 2.31** 7.68** 11.55* 5.90* 7.62** 12.82** 8.29**
(0.92) (3.55) (5.95) (3.25) (3.59) (5.39) (3.61)
Observations 529 529 529 496 529 362 514
Presidents 107 107 107 99 107 77 104
*p<0.1, **p<0.05, ***p<0.01.
show that, after using biographical data about the leaders as instruments, the results
presented in the benchmark model hold for each of the Big Five.
Models 2.6 and 2.7 test the theory on subsamples. Model 2.6 excludes nondemo-
cratic leaders to explore whether the results change when only leaders who govern
under democratic norms and institutions are included. I follow the classication of
Boix, Miller, and Rosato,
who regard a country as democratic when politicians are
chosen through free and fair elections and a minimal level of surage. Model 2.7
excludes heads of government who may not have had enough support to reform the
constitution because they were either interim (i.e. they served to complete someone
elses term) or puppets(i.e. they governed under the orders of someone else).
Model 2.1 shows that only Party Age is statistically signicant among the variables
that capture the argument about executive-legislative relations; presidents are less
likely to try to relax their term limits when they belong to institutionalized parties.
In the argument about presidential strength, both Legislative Powers and Regime are
positively associated to the presidential attempts. As proposed by the argument
about judicial independence, Higher Courts is negatively associated to the attempts.
GDP per Capita, the variable used to capture the argument about the value of
holding oce for the president, is unrelated to the presidential attempts.
Model 2.2 renders support for four of the ve hypotheses. As expected, Openness
and Neuroticism are positively associated to presidential attempts, Conscientiousness
decreases the likelihood of observing a presidential attempt, and Extraversion is unre-
lated to the presidentsoverreaching behaviour. Unexpectedly, Agreeableness is also
unrelated to the attempts. These results hold when extreme raters (2.4) are excluded,
when the Heckman two-stage procedure is followed (2.5), and in the samples that
exclude nondemocratic leaders (2.6) and puppets and interim leaders (2.7). The
only meaningful change occurs when Conscientiousness loses statistical signicance
in 2.6, perhaps because of the 32% smaller sample size. Model 2.2 also shows that
when the Big Five are included, Regime loses statistical signicance while No Reelection
gains it. These changes suggest that not including the personality traits of presidents
leads to model misspecication.
Figure 2 shows the predicted probabilities that presidents will try to relax their term
limits at dierent levels of Openness,Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness. The histo-
gram in the background shows the values on which the predicted probabilities are
based. Noticeably, presidents tend to be open to experience and conscientious,
whereas neuroticism is closer to a normal probability distribution. When Openness
is at its mean (3.3), the chances of observing a presidential attempt are approximately
4%. However, the probability grows up to 26% with the extreme observed value of
Figure 2. Predicted probabilities of presidential attempts.
Notes: Shadows show the 95% condence interval.
5. The chances of observing an attempt when Neuroticism is at its mean value (2.8) are
only 3%, but they grow to 19% at the highest value in the sample (4.1). Finally, a
minimum level of conscientiousness (2.1) is associated to a 10% chance of observing
an attempt, while the probability falls below 3% at values above the mean (3.5). In
sum, Figure 2 shows that three of the Big Five are relevant to explain the overreaching
behaviour of presidents, and that leaders with extreme openness and neuroticism may
threaten the stability of term limits.
Some cases can illustrate the personality traits in action. Presidents have tried to
relax their term limits despite not enjoying a congressional majority, such as Hugo
Chávez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.
Compared to the mean president, these leaders received higher scores in Openness
and Neuroticism, and equal or lower in Conscientiousness (except Correa). In the
sample, the means for Openness,Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness are 3.3, 2.8, and
3.5, respectively. For the same traits, Chávez scored 3.9, 3.3, and 3.2, Correa 4, 3.5,
and 4.4, and Ortega 3.3, 3.5, and 3.5. To overcome the minority status, Chávez and
Correa convoked constituent assemblies that gave them a majority, while Ortega got
the authorization to rerun for oce from a subservient Supreme Court. In sum, the
three leaders creatively surmounted institutional barriers.
In contrast, presidents who faced a favourable context to relax their term limits
arguably did not try in part due to their traits. For example, in his rst term, Tabaré
Vázquez of Uruguay was popular, enjoyed a majority in Congress, and was under
pressure to adapt the constitution to be allowed to be reelected.
In the expert
survey, Vázquez scored lower than average in Openness (2.9) and Neuroticism (2.4)
and slightly higher than average in Conscientiousness (3.6).In concordance to his per-
sonality traits, Vázquez declined to change the constitution.
While Openness,Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness explain presidential attempts,
model 2.3 showed that Extraversion and Openness explain successful attempts (pre-
dicted probabilities are shown in the online appendix). While more research is
needed to uncover the dierences between 2.2 and 2.3, Extraversion and Openness
arguably provide useful resources to succeed in dicult negotiations. To begin with,
both are highly related with charisma, a trait strongly associated to leadership
In particular, the creativity, non-conventional behaviour, adventurousness,
and intellectual brilliance of individuals open to experience are skills that should help
presidents navigate the sinuous process of relaxing term limits. The dominance aspect
of extraversion and its inclination to lead others, control circumstances, and seek exci-
tement may also explain presidential success in persuading other actors to reform the
Further robustness checks (Table 5 in the online appendix) show that the leaders
age is unrelated to the attempts, but leftist leaders are more likely to try to retain
oce. While further research is needed to uncover if this result is a coincidence or
is rooted in ideology, revealingly, the impact of ideology in the attempts is independent
from the eect of Openness despite the correlation between the two variables. Interest-
ingly, whether the chief executives and their allies are committed to democracy (their
normative preferences) and whether they embrace radical policy goals are unrelated to
the attempts. A retest of the executive-legislative argument shows that party power
concentration at the national or subnational governments inhibits the attempts, rein-
forcing the constraining eect of party institutionalization identied across models in
Table 2. Finally, presidents have become more prone to relax term limits since the
onset of the regions third wave of democracy (in 1978), suggesting that in the last
decades leaders with authoritarian proclivities have increasingly chosen to assault con-
stitutions to consolidate their power.
This article shows that the personality traits of presidents are relevant when explaining
why some of them attempt to relax their term limits. Focusing on presidential person-
alities complemented previous studies that centred on the institutional and political
context that surround the heads of government. Under convenient circumstances,
leaders who are more open to experience, more neurotic, and less conscientious are
more likely to attempt to change term limits. The results show that favourable circum-
stances exist when presidents enjoy strong legislative powers, lead new parties and no
single party controls much of national or subnational governments, immediate reelec-
tion is forbidden, and higher courts are not fully independent.
This study is a rst step in exploring how the individual dierences of presidents are
related to their attempts to relax term limits. Further research should uncover how the
facets or constituent traits of the Big Five relate to the attempts. As discussed for extra-
version and neuroticism, each of the Big Five are composed of facets that may push
into dierent or even opposite directions. Furthermore, a thorough examination of
individual dierences that unrelated to personalities, such as the leaderslife trajectory,
should unveil more characteristics of overreaching presidents.
More broadly, the focus on the personality traits of leaders seems urgent. For too
long, quantitative research in political science has neglected examining how the
uniqueness of the most powerful politicians impact executive governance. Arguably,
the presidentspowers and interaction with institutions and actors oer innumerable
situations in which the uniqueness of leaders can make a dierence. A rigorous exam-
ination of these situations will also allow us to revisit and expand theories and ndings
in which the individual dierences likely made a dierence but were ignored in pre-
vious studies.
A pressing question is to examine whether presidential personalities can shape pol-
itical regimes. The world is undergoing a wave of autocratization in which the behav-
iour of heads of government is usually a leading force in the often gradual but
sometimes abrupt erosion of democratic norms and institutions. One of the big
threats to democracies today, populism, often grows due to the amboyant personal-
ities of leaders. Closely examining how the unique characteristics of heads of govern-
ment explain the assault on democratic norms and institutions can help prevent the
negative outcomes associated with a more authoritarian world.
1. Kouba, Party Institutionalization; Penfold, Corrales, and Hernández, Los Invencibles.
2. Penfold, Corrales, and Hernández, Los Invencibles; Corrales, Can Anyone Stop.
3. Ibid.
4. Kouba, Party Institutionalization.
5. Marsteintredet, Presidential Term Limits; Klesner, The Politics of Presidential.
6. Rhodes-Purdy and Madrid, The Perils of Personalism.
7. McCrae and Costa, Personality Trait Structure; Benet-Martínez and John, Los Cinco
Grandes; McCrae, The Five-Factor Model.
8. Arana, The Personalities of Presidents.
9. Arana, Cómo Evaluar.
10. Corrales, Can Anyone Stop.
11. Kouba, Party Institutionalization.
12. Corrales, Can Anyone Stop.
13. Negretto, Making Constitutions.
14. Lucardi and Almaraz, With a Little.
15. Negretto, Making Constitutions.
16. Lucardi and Almaraz, With a Little.
17. Kouba, Party Institutionalization.
18. Ibid.; Negretto, Making Constitutions, 87.
19. Klesner, The Politics of Presidential.
20. Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy.
21. Martínez-Barahona, Constitutional Courts; Kouba, Party Institutionalization.
22. Ibid.; Corrales, Can Anyone Stop; Arana, What Drives Evos.
23. Baturo, Democracy, Dictatorship.
24. Guliyev, End of Term Limits.
25. McCrae and Costa, Personality Trait Structure; McCrae, The Five-Factor Model.
26. Corr and Matthews, The Cambridge Handbook.
27. McCrae and Costa, Personality Trait Structure.
28. Costa and McCrae, Normal Personality.
29. Gerber et al., Personality and the Strength; Mondak, Personality and the Foundations;
Mondak and Halperin, A Framework.
30. Rubenzer, Faschingbauer, and Ones, Assessing the U.S. Presidents; Rubenzer and Fasching-
bauer, Personality, Character, and Leadership; Arana, The Personalities of Presidents; Arana
and Guerrero, Executive-Legislative Relations.
31. Arana, The Personalities of Presidents.
32. Caprara and Zimbardo, Personalizing Politics.
33. Costa and McCrae, Normal Personality; McCrae and Costa, Personality Trait Structure.
34. Dollinger, Leong, and Ulicni, On Traits and Values; Swickert, 30 Personality.
35. Swickert, 30 Personality.
36. DeYoung and Gray, Personality Neuroscience.
37. Best, Does Personality Matter; Caprara et al., Personalities of Politicians.
38. Mondak and Halperin, A Framework; Mondak, Personality and the Foundations.
39. Mondak and Halperin, A Framework.
40. Rubenzer, Faschingbauer, and Ones, Assessing the U.S. Presidents.
41. Arana, What Drives Evos.
42. Oreg and Berson, Personality and Charismatic.
43. Swickert, 30 personality; Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, Personality Traits.
44. DeYoung and Gray, Personality Neuroscience.
45. Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, Personality Traits.
46. Mondak, Personality and the Foundations; Mondak and Halperin, AFramework.
47. Pervin and John, Handbook of Personality.
48. Costa and McCrae, The NEO Personality; Swickert, 30 Personality.
49. McCrae and Costa, Personality, Coping.
50. Russell et al., Personality, Social Networks.
51. Hibbing, Ritchie, and Anderson, Personality and Political Discussion.
52. Gerber et al., Personality and the Strength.
53. Caprara et al., Personalities of Politicians.
54. DeYoung and Gray, Personality Neuroscience.
55. Swickert, 30 Personality; DeYoung and Gray, Personality Neuroscience.
56. Swickert, 30 Personality.
57. Mondak and Halperin, A Framework.
58. Webster, Its Personal.
59. Joly, Soroka, and Loewen, Nice Guys Finish.
60. DeYoung and Gray, Personality Neuroscience.
61. Ibid; Swickert, 30 Personality.
62. De Raad and Schouwenburg, Personality in Learning.
63. Mondak and Halperin, A Framework.
64. Best, Does Personality Matter.
65. Schoen and Schumann, Personality Traits.
66. A total of 302 presidents governed in this period, but expert assessments were only obtainable
for 152 leaders. The study excludes the six juntas in which no member acted as president and
the 76 transient leaders who governed for less than six months.
67. Sources are presented in the online appendix. Research assistants coded the biographies.
68. Arana Araya, Presidential Database.
69. The survey was emailed to 911 experts and the response rate was 40%.
70. Rubenzer and Faschingbauer, Personality, Character, and Leadership, 319.
71. Benet-Martínez and John, Los Cinco Grandes.
72. Steenbergen and Marks, Evaluating Expert Judgments.
73. There are no observations for years in which there was no Congress.
74. Kouba, Party Institutionalization; Corrales, Can Anyone Stop; Negretto, Making
75. The data are taken from Pérez-Liñán, Schmidt, and Vairo, Presidential Hegemony.
76. Negretto, Making Constitutions.
77. Coppedge et al., V-dem Dataset v11.1.
78. Ibid.
79. World Bank, Indicators.
80. Carter and Signorino, Back to the Future.
81. Martínez i Coma and Van Ham, Can Experts Judge; Rubenzer and Faschingbauer, Person-
ality, Character, and Leadership.
82. The other variable is the expertssympathy toward the leaders, which correlates at .81 with the
83. Heckman, The Common Structure.The rst stage model is presented on the online
84. Boix, Miller, and Rosato, A Complete Data Set.
85. This data is taken from Mainwaring and Pérez-Liñán, Democracies and Dictatorships.
86. Psetizki, Uruguay.
87. Oreg and Berson, Personality and Charismatic.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Notes on contributor
Ignacio Arana Araya is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy at
Carnegie Mellon University. He specializes in presidential behavior and in the comparative study
of political institutions in Latin America.
Ignacio Arana Araya
Arana Araya, Ignacio. ¿Cómo evaluar a los integrantes de la élite política? Una propuesta basada en
los presidentes americanos.Política 54 (2016): 219254.
Arana Araya, Ignacio. 2017. Presidential Database of the Americas[v.2]. Unpublished Data Set,
Carnegie Mellon University.
Arana Araya, Ignacio. The Personalities of Presidents as Independent Variables.Political Psychology
42, no. 4 (2021): 695721.
Arana Araya, Ignacio, and Carolina Guerrero. Executive-Legislative Relations: When Do Legislators
Trust the President? In Politics and Political Elites in Latin America, edited by Manuel Alcántara,
Mercedes García Moreno and Cristina Rivas Pérez, 151171. Cham: Springer, 2020.
Arana Araya, Ignacio. What Drives Evos Attempts to Remain in Power? A Psychological
Explanation.Bolivian Studies Journal 22 (2016): 191219.
Baturo, Alexander. Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan
Press, 2014.
Benet-Martínez, Verónica, and Oliver P. John. Los Cinco Grandes Across Cultures and Ethnic
Groups: Multitrait-Multimethod Analyses of the Big Five in Spanish and English.Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 75, no. 3 (1998): 729750.
Best, Heinrich. Does Personality Matter in Politics? Personality Factors as Determinants of
Parliamentary Recruitment and Policy Preferences.Comparative Sociology 10, no. 6 (2011): 928948.
Boix, Carles, Michael Miller, and Sebastian Rosato. A Complete Data set of Political Regimes, 1800
2007.Comparative Political Studies 46, no. 12 (2013): 15231554.
Carter, David B., and Curtis S. Signorino. Back to the Future: Modeling Time Dependence in Binary
Data.Political Analysis 18, no. 3 (2010): 271292.
Caprara, Gian Vittorio, Claudio Barbaranelli, Chiara Consiglio, Laura Picconi, and Philip G.
Zimbardo. Personalities of Politicians and Voters: Unique and Synergistic Relationships.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, no. 4 (2003): 849856.
Caprara, Gian Vittorio, and Philip G. Zimbardo. Personalizing Politics: a Congruency Model of
Political Preference.American Psychologist 59, no. 7 (2004): 581594.
Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas, and Adrian Furnham. Personality Traits and Academic Examination
Performance.European Journal of Personality 17, no. 3 (2003): 237250.
Coma, Ferran Martínez, and Carolien Van Ham. Can Experts Judge Elections? Testing the Validity of
Expert Judgments for Measuring Election Integrity.European Journal of Political Research 54, no.
2 (2015): 305325.
Coppedge, Michael, John Gerring, Carl Henrik Knutsen, Staan I. Lindberg, Jan Teorell, Nazifa
Alizada, David Altman, et al. V-Dem Dataset v11.1 Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project, 2021.
Corrales, Javier. Can Anyone Stop the President? Power Asymmetries and Term Limits in Latin
America, 19842016.Latin American Politics and Society 58, no. 2 (2016): 325.
Corr, Philip J., and Gerald Matthews, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Costa, Paul T., and Robert R. McCrae. The NEO Personality Inventory Manual. Odessa, FL:
Psychological Assessment Resources, 1987.
Costa, Paul T., and Robert R. McCrae. Normal Personality Assessment in Clinical Practice: The NEO
Personality Inventory.Psychological Assessment 4, no. 1 (1992): 513.
De Raad, Boele, and Henri C. Schouwenburg. Personality in Learning and Education: A Review.
European Journal of Personality 10, no. 5 (1996): 303336.
DeYoung, Colin G., and Jeremy R. Gray. Personality Neuroscience: Explaining Individual
Dierences in Aect, Behaviour and Cognition.In The Cambridge Handbook of Personality
Psychology, edited by Philip J. Corr and Gerald Matthews, 323346. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2009.
Dollinger, Stephen J., Frederick TL Leong, and Shawna K. Ulicni. On Traits and Values: With Special
Reference to Openness to Experience.Journal of Research in Personality 30, no. 1 (1996): 2341.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. Personality and the
Strength and Direction of Partisan Identication.Political Behavior 34, no. 4 (2012): 653688.
Guliyev, Farid. End of Term Limits: Monarchical Presidencies on the Rise.Harvard International
Review, February 28, 2009.
Heckman, James J. The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and
Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models.Annals of Economic and
Social Measurement 5, no. 4 (1976): 475492.
Hibbing, Matthew V., Melinda Ritchie, and Mary R. Anderson. Personality and Political Discussion.
Political Behavior 33, no. 4 (2011): 601624.
Joly, Jeroen, Stuart Soroka, and Peter Loewen. Nice Guys Finish Last: Personality and Political
Success.Acta Politica 54, no. 4 (2019): 667683.
Klesner, Joseph L. The Politics of Presidential Term Limits in Mexico.In The Politics of Presidential
Term Limits, edited by Alexander Baturo and Robert Elgie, 141158. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2019.
Kouba, Karel. Party Institutionalization and the Removal of Presidential Term Limits in Latin
America.Revista de Ciencia Política 36, no. 2 (2016): 433457.
Lijphart, Arend. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.
Lucardi, Adrián, and María Gabriela Almaraz. With a Little Help from the Opposition? Relaxing
Term Limits in the Argentine Provinces, 19832017.Journal of Politics in Latin America 9, no.
3 (2017): 4990.
Mainwaring, Scott, and Aníbal Pérez-Liñán. Democracies and Dictatorships in Latin America:
Emergence, Survival, and Fall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Marsteintredet, Leiv. Presidential Term Limits in Latin America: c.18201985.In The Politics of
Presidential Term Limits, edited by Alexander Baturo and Robert Elgie, 103122. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2019.
Martínez-Barahona, Elena. Constitutional Courts and Constitutional Change: Analysing the Cases of
Presidential Re-Election in Latin America.InNew Constitutionalism in Latin America, edited by
Detlef Nolte and Almut Schilling-Vacaor, 289312. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012.
McCrae, Robert R., and Paul T. Costa Jr. Personality, Coping, and Coping Eectiveness in an Adult
Sample.Journal of Personality 54, no. 2 (1986): 385404.
McCrae, Robert R., and Paul T. Costa Jr. Personality Trait Structure as a Human Universal.
American Psychologist 52, no. 5 (1997): 509516.
McCrae, Robert R. The Five-Factor Model of Personality.In The Cambridge Handbook of
Personality Psychology, edited by Philip J. Corr, and Gerald Matthews, 148161. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2009.
McKie, Kristin. Presidential Term Limit Contravention: Abolish, Extend, Fail, or Respect?
Comparative Political Studies 52, no. 10 (2019): 15001534.
Mondak, Jeery J., and Karen D. Halperin. A Framework for the Study of Personality and Political
Behaviour.British Journal of Political Science 38, no. 2 (2008): 335362.
Mondak, Jeery J. Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. Cambridge, England:
Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Negretto, Gabriel L. Making Constitutions: Presidents, Parties, and Institutional Choice in Latin
America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Oreg, Shaul, and Yair Berson. Personality and Charismatic Leadership in Context: The Moderating
Role of Situational Stress.Personnel Psychology 68, no. 1 (2015): 4977.
Penfold, Michael, Javier Corrales, and Gonzalo Hernández. Los Invencibles: La Reelección
Presidencial y los Cambios Constitucionales en América Latina.Revista de Ciencia Política 34,
no. 3 (2014): 537559.
Pérez-Liñán, Aníbal, Nicolás Schmidt, and Daniela Vairo. Presidential Hegemony and Democratic
Backsliding in Latin America, 19252016.Democratization 26, no. 4 (2019): 606625.
Pervin, Lawrence A., and Oliver P. John. Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research. Amsterdam,
Netherlands: Elsevier, 1999.
Psetizki, Verónica. Uruguay: Tabaré Vázquez termina con buena nota.Accessed May 2021. https://
Rhodes-Purdy, Matthew, and Raúl L. Madrid. The Perils of Personalism.Democratization 27, no. 2
(2020): 321339.
Rubenzer, Steven J., Thomas R. Faschingbauer, and Deniz S. Ones. Assessing the U.S. Presidents
Using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory.Assessment 7, no. 4 (2000): 403420.
Rubenzer, Steven J., and Thomas R. Faschingbauer. Personality, Character, and Leadership in the
White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc, 2004.
Russell, Daniel W., Brenda Booth, David Reed, and Philip R. Laughlin. Personality, Social Networks,
and Perceived Social Support among Alcoholics: A Structural Equation Analysis.Journal of
Personality 65, no. 3 (1997): 649692.
Schoen, Harald, and Siegfried Schumann. Personality Traits, Partisan Attitudes, and Voting
Behavior. Evidence from Germany.Political Psychology 28, no. 4 (2007): 471498.
Steenbergen, Marco R., and Gary Marks. Evaluating Expert Judgments.European Journal of Political
Research 46, no. 3 (2007): 347366.
Swickert, Rhonda. 30 Personality and Social Support Processes.In The Cambridge Handbook of
Personality Psychology, edited by Philip J. Corr and Gerald Matthews, 524540. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Webster, Steven W. Its Personal: The Big Five Personality Traits and Negative Partisan Aect in
Polarized US Politics.American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 1 (2018): 127145.
World Bank. Indicators.Accessed May 23, 2018.
... Big Five also impact behavior of leaders in political positions. Araya (2022) found that there were 40 attempts to alter the constitution to enable political leaders overstay in office, in Latin America from 1945 to 2012. The study revealed three of the five traits were associated with the likelihood of constitution alteration attempts by political leaders. ...
Full-text available
Research indicates leadership is an important discipline in political studies. However, leadership has received little attention within political science scholarship. Theorists attribute this neglect to perplexities of political leadership which is often in conflict with tenets of liberal democratic ethos. As a result, the concept of political leadership and the character of the political leader remain understudied. The current study utilizes conceptual framework analysis method to identify political leadership’s central concepts and themes which form the theoretical framework. The current study was conducted by examining literature covering social, cultural, and psychological facets of political leadership. Ensuing concepts were then used to map out a conceptual framework for political leadership. The findings reveal behavior is a cause of political leadership outcomes. Additionally, the study shows personality traits, leadership style, motivation, and stress tolerance are central concepts to the behavior of the leader, and define leadership outcomes within a political setting. Finally, further studies into the interconnectivities of the central concepts will deepen the understanding of the phenomena.
Full-text available
Why do peace agreements work in several democratic countries but not in several other democratic countries? This study addresses this puzzle by investigating the impacts of government turnover, measured by leader turnover and government ideological turnover, on the implementation of peace agreements in democratic countries. The idea is that the alternation of power - which political party comes to power - influences policy continuity. Generally, a completely new government, whose policy preferences differ from the preceding government, is less likely to implement inherited policies. The central theoretical framework of this study offers four explanations concerning the relationship between government turnover and the performance of peace agreements in democratic countries. First, insider leaders continue the incumbent governments' policy and facilitate the implementation of peace agreements. Second, outsider leaders come to power with the support of different electoral bases and impede the implementation of peace agreements which can force rebels to rearm themselves. Third, the left-wing government parties favor peaceful conflict resolution and facilitate the implementation of peace agreements. Fourth, the right-wing government parties prefer hawkish policies and hinder the performance of peace agreements. This study tests the assumptions of its central theoretical framework using a panel dataset and three illustrative cases: Colombia, Israel, and the Philippines. The findings of this investigation demonstrate the positive impacts of insider leader turnover and the adverse effects of outsider leader turnover on the implementation of peace agreements in the sampled countries. The performance of peace agreements becomes better following left-wing chief executives assume office. The sampled countries have witnessed an increase in the implementation of peace agreements following the largest left government parties taking office. These findings suggest that the performance of peace agreements in democratic countries largely relies on government turnover. Hence, this study contributes to the democratic civil peace thesis literature, which has overlooked why democracies differ themselves. Why do some democratic leaders negotiate peace agreements with rebels while other democratic leaders oppose peace agreements? The empirical evidence of this study might benefit international peacebuilding policy. A wide range of actors, from local NGOs and powerful states to intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, European Union, and African Union, administer international peacebuilding missions in conflict-affected countries. A debate remains on why international peacebuilding missions sometimes fail to achieve their core objectives and establish sustainable peace. This study suggests international peacebuilding actors conduct policy research on the government turnover trap - how to save peace agreements from severe failure when unlikely hawkish governments come to power in democratic countries.
Presidential term limits have been a crucial institutional feature of the third wave of democratization. They are meant to safeguard democracy by promoting alternation in office and preventing the personalization of power. However, since the 1990s term limits have been subject to frequent contestation by incumbents. This process has often been considered a sign of autocratization because it involves the weakening of other constitutional constraints, such as courts and legislatures. Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa are focal points of these trends, despite their different histories of presidentialism and diverging types of term-limit rules. Term-limit contestations have attracted the attention of scholars working with a global perspective as well as with a regional or country-specific one too. In this article, we argue that bringing together the regional scholarship on Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa can generate new both empirical and theoretical insights. We further present our findings on institutionalization, the power of precedence, incumbent-centred strategies and approaches to protect presidential term limits. We also show that despite frequent reforms, term-limit rules have persisted until today in the majority of constitutions found in the two regions.
Full-text available
Despite theoretical arguments suggesting the strong effects of presidential term limits and re-election on democracy, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence to evaluate them. We test both the effect on democracy of the existence of a consecutive re-election rule and of reforms introducing it for incumbent presidents. Using evidence from Latin American countries between 1945 and 2018, we test their relationship to both vertical and horizontal accountability. A synthetic control method is employed to account for the effect of term-limit reforms, and time-series cross-section models for modelling the association with the re-election rule. Both vertical and horizontal accountability as well as the quality of democracy are eroded by term-limit evasion reforms in most countries and strengthened in none between 1990 and 2018. Allowing presidents to run for re-election – relative to term-limited ones – is consistently associated with weak democratic outcomes.
Full-text available
There is a growing scholarly consensus that overreaching heads of government are subverting democracies across the globe. However, the characteristics of these leaders remain unclear. This article examines a type of overreaching presidential behavior that has been commonplace in Latin America: between 1945 and 2012, 25 presidents from 14 countries tried to change their respective constitutions to increase their powers. Building on personality research and semi-structured interviews conducted with former presidents, this article proposes that risk-taking and assertive leaders are more likely to try to increase their powers. Using a novel database, I conduct discrete-time duration models to test the hypotheses on the presidents that governed from 1945-2012. The results demonstrate that the personalities of presidents are a strong force behind their attempts to consolidate their authority. These findings challenge current approaches in presidential studies and have implications for the study of all types of political elites.
Full-text available
Research on interbranch conflict has mostly focused on the effect that the institutional and political context has on executive-legislative relations. Little attention has been paid to the interpersonal dimension in interbranch relations, despite being characterized by intensive interactions among political elites. Arguably, the trust that legislators have in the incumbent signals their willingness to negotiate and reach agreements with the head of government. In this chapter, we begin to address the factors that explain the trust legislators have in presidents. We use data from two unique databases, the Presidential Database of the Americas and the Parliamentary Elites of Latin America Project, to examine legislative trust in presidents from 18 countries for the 1994-2014 period. We find that factors that capture the institutional and political environment as well as variables that measure psychological and non-psychological characteristics of the leaders are relevant to understanding the trust that legislators have in heads of government.
Full-text available
The debate about the relative importance of the personality traits of presidents has a long history. Until the mid-1970s, scholars of the presidency extensively focused on the uniqueness of the individuals that held office. However, the difficulty in capturing presidential personalities and measuring their impact on executive politics led to a significant quantitative shift that focused more on the institutions within which presidents operate. This change produced a long-lasting divide between researchers interested in the "institutional" presidency and those focused on the "personal" presidency. I propose to integrate both approaches by incorporating insights from differential psychology to treat the personality traits of presidents as independent variables. In support of the argument, I use data from an expert survey that captured psychometric traits of presidents who governed the Western Hemisphere in 1945-2012 to reassess an influential study about Latin American presidents. The results show that adding openness to experience leads to a deeper understanding of presidential approval. I conclude by arguing that measuring the personality traits of all sorts of leaders is necessary to modernize the study of elites.
Full-text available
What impact does personalism, or presidential dominance of a weakly organized ruling party, have on the level of democracy? We argue that presidents who dominate their own weakly organized parties are more likely to seek to concentrate power, undermine horizontal accountability, and trample the rule of law than presidents who preside over parties that have an independent leadership and an institutionalized bureaucracy. Independent party leaders, we suggest, will often try to curb the excesses of the president in order to protect their own political prospects. We explore these hypotheses through a quantitative analysis of the determinants of the level of democracy in 18 Latin American countries from 1980-2015. We find that personalism has a consistently negative impact on the level of democracy in Latin America. We further find that ruling party organizational strength, rather than constitutional checks on the executive, is the most important condition for preventing presidential dominance.
Full-text available
Is there a link between personality and the electoral and in-office success of politicians? Using the Ten-Item Personality Inventory, we examine whether the Five-Factor Model personality traits are correlated with political success among Belgian elected officials. We look at three different measures of political success, corresponding to different stages of the political career—electoral success, years in office, and access to an elite political position—and find lower levels of agreeableness are systematically correlated with greater success. These results are in line with those found among American and European CEO’s (Boudreau et al. in J Vocat Behav 58(1):53–81, 2001). This study offers a unique insight in the type of personality voters and party leadership look for and reward among politicians.
In Mexico’s presidential system, the struggle over term limits was at the heart of efforts to institutionalize regimes from 1857 through 1933. Before the 1910 Revolution, Porfirio Díaz both called for his predecessors’ overthrow by appealing to the principle of no-re-election and then manipulated that principle in order to stay in power. The rallying cry of the 1910 Revolution became “Effective Suffrage, No-Reelection.” Despite a late-1920s effort to backpedal from no-re-election, the principle has been scrupulously adhered to. It was extended to all electoral offices in 1933. As a consequence, the revolutionary party was able to avoid one-man rule during its 71 years in power. Term limits promoted the circulation of party militants in electoral office and appointed positions even while it weakened the legislature in its relationship to executive power. Even after the revolutionary party lost power in 2000, it kept reformers from amending non-re-election for legislators until 2014.
Latin America holds a 200-year-long history of presidential constitutions. The region’s constitutional and democratic experimentation throughout history makes it an interesting laboratory to study the origins, development, and effects of presidential term limits. Based primarily on data from constitutions, this chapter provides an overview of presidential term limits in Latin America from independence until 1985. The chapter shows how term limits have varied across countries and time, and that the implementation of strict term limits often came as a reaction to prior dictatorial rules. Whereas both proponents and critics of consecutive reelection invoked arguments of democracy in their favour, the Latin American experience up until the Third Wave of Democracy shows that stable, republican, and democratic rule has only been possible under a ban on immediate presidential re-election.
Since presidential term limits were (re)adopted by many states during the third wave of democratization, 221 presidents across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia have reached the end of their term(s) in office. Of these, 30% have attempted to contravene term limits, resulting in either full abolition, one-term extensions, or failure. What explains these divergent trajectories? I argue that trends in electoral competition over time best predict term limit outcomes, with noncompetitive elections permitting full abolition, less competitive elections allowing for one-term extensions, and competitive elections leading to failed bids. This is because electoral trends provide informational cues to the president’s co-partisan legislators and constitutional court judges (the actors who ultimately rule on constitutional term limit amendments) about the cost/benefit analysis that voting to uphold or repeal term limits would have on their own political survival. These findings suggest a linkage between political uncertainty and constitutional stability more generally.
Does the executive's institutional hegemony represent a risk to the survival of democracy? By hegemony, we refer to the president's ability to control other institutions, particularly the legislature and judiciary. To answer this question, we develop two indices of presidential hegemony and analyze the duration of democratic regimes in 18 Latin American countries between 1925 and 2016. The results show that executive hegemony is a major driver of democratic instability. This finding is robust to non-linear effects and to potential endogeneity in the relationship between presidential power and democratic backsliding. Our findings challenge traditional concerns about executive-legislative deadlock, and have significant implications for the nascent literature on democratic backsliding, which highlights executive aggrandizement as a risk factor.
One of the most important developments within the American electorate in recent years has been the rise of affective polarization. Whether this is due to notions of group-based conflict or ideological disagreement, Americans increasingly dislike the opposing political party and its supporters. I contribute to this growing literature on affective polarization by showing how differences in individuals’ Big Five personality traits are predictive of both whether an individual dislikes the opposing party and the degree to which they express this hostility. Modeling negative affect toward the opposing party as a two-stage process, I find that Extraverted individuals are less likely to have negative affective evaluations of the opposing party. Additionally, conditional on disliking the opposing party, my results indicate that higher levels of Agreeableness lowers the degree to which individuals dislike the out-party. Moreover, these relationships are substantively stronger than common sociodemographic predictors such as age, race, and educational attainment.