Who will be the next president of the United States: a duplicitous, power-hungry career politician, or a psychopathic narcissist out to take his personal brand to the next level?
That's the underlying question on election day in the United States, according to a Canadian study evaluating the public personas of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The study, which was conducted by researchers at Brock University and Lakehead University, found that both candidates are perceived as unlikeable because they don't exhibit certain traits that would make them easy to connect with.
Those traits, which are collectively referred to as HEXACO in the study, include honesty or humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness (or quickness to anger), conscientiousness and openness to experience.
Researchers asked 10 psychologists to rate Clinton and Trump based on the HEXACO criteria, and found that both candidates scored quite low in at least one category on the scale, although they each showed strength in other areas.
"The ratings were consistent with Machiavellianism in the case of Hillary Clinton and narcissism and psychopathy for Donald Trump," study co-author Angela Book said in a news release.
Tony Volk, another co-author on the study, says his team was struck by two things: "How unpopular both candidates were and, even from the start, how personal the election was in terms of personalities and temperaments."
According to the study, both candidates come across as "cold, distant, arrogant and dishonest," though to different degrees.
When asked to describe Hillary Clinton's persona in a few words, Volk told CTV News Channel she is "conscientious, dishonest (and) unemotional." When posed the same question about Trump, Volk described him as "narcissistic, bold (and) psychopathic."
"Hillary has some of the traits of being a schemer, or a manipulator. Cynically you could say a standard politician," said Volk. "Donald Trump has the traits that are reminiscent of people who would be narcissistic psychopaths."
Both candidates ranked low in the study's honesty-humility analysis, with Trump labelled "exceptionally low" compared to Clinton's "low."
Trump recorded another "exceptionally low" score on altruism and a "very low" on emotionality. Clinton scored "low" in both of those categories as well.
Researchers concluded that's where the similarities between the two candidates ended, with Clinton achieving a "normal" ranking on extraversion and agreeableness, followed by a "high" rating on both conscientiousness and openness to experience.
Trump, meanwhile, recorded an "exceptionally low" ranking on agreeableness, a "high" ranking on extraversion, a "low" ranking on conscientiousness and a "low" ranking on openness to experience.
The study goes on to say that Clinton's Machiavellian personality was consistent with the public's perception of her as a career politician, and she's seen by some as dishonest, lacking humility and cold.
Volk admits he was surprised about Clinton's extraversion ranking, which he says is common in presidential candidates, but which he says doesn't always come across in her appearances.
He added that the biggest asset in Clinton's persona is that she's perceived as a diligent worker. "She never gives up, she pays attention to details and she's good with policy," he said.
However, the study notes researchers were surprised that Trump has managed to get this far in the election race with his personality results pointing to narcissism and psychopathy.
"His personality ratings were more in line with that of people scoring high on psychopathy and narcissism," they wrote. "These very anti-social traits make it curious that people support Trump for the American presidency."
They say it's possible that his extraversion allows him to overcome or deflect any perceived flaws.
"He's a master at social situations," Volk said, adding that the GOP candidate's appeal likely rests in his bold approach.
Volk added that he was shocked about how low Trump scored in the honesty-humility and agreeableness categories.
He says Trump scored in the bottom one per cent of the population in both of those categories.
"You want exceptionalities in your president, but you don't want your president to be exceptional in that regard," he said.
In terms of those who support each candidate, Volk said Clinton backers "believe that her conscientiousness overcomes her potential lack of honesty," while Trump supporters are more concerned with his ability to defending existing laws than with any of his personal scandals. "They're willing to overlook more or less all of the bad traits," he said.
In the end, researchers conclude that Clinton is a better candidate for those wanting a steadier hand steering the presidency while Trump may appear to have more suitable personality traits for those who want a bold leader to make dramatic changes.
The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.