In­tegrity trumps style for vot­ers; charisma, looks rank low in poll

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Vot­ers may not care a whit about Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s cleav­age, for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards’ coif, for­mer Sen. Fred Thompson’s film ca­reer or glib sound bites from any­one, no mat­ter how much such things are bandied about in the press. They pine for tra­di­tional lead­er­ship in­stead.

“Vot­ers don’t care if the 2008 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are ugly, bor­ing, unin­spired or ver­bose. What they want more than any­thing else are lead­ers with in­tegrity,” said a sur­vey re­leased Aug. 1 by Alma Col­lege in Michi­gan.

“Hon­esty and in­tegrity were the high­est val­ued traits. Be­ing able to see the big pic­ture, lis­ten­ing skills, intelligence and moral­ity form a sec­ond tier of de­sired at­tributes. Charisma and phys­i­cal at­trac­tive­ness ranked the low­est,” the sur­vey found.

In­deed, only 1 per­cent said they val­ued ap­pear­ance and charisma.

“Th­ese find­ings sug­gest a de­sire by many Amer­i­cans to re­turn to the core val­ues of in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter and com­pas­sion to­ward oth­ers that Amer­i­cans have re­lied on dur­ing other tough times in our coun­try’s his­tory,” said John Leipzig, di­rec­tor of the school’s Cen­ter for Re­spon­si­ble Lead­er­ship, which con­ducted the re­search.

“Th­ese traits of char­ac­ter and com­pas­sion are re­ally about ‘think­ing be­yond self’ — some might say that our coun­try has be­come self­ind­ul­gent — and about a pos­i­tive can-do at­ti­tude, a con­fi­dence which some say our coun­try is rapidly los­ing,” Mr. Leipzig added.

Noble traits don’t get heavy cov­er­age, though. Af­ter a Wash­ing­ton Post ar­ti­cle last month sug­gested that Mrs. Clin­ton dis­played “un­nerv­ing” cleav­age dur­ing a Se­nate floor speech, the press went bal­lis­tic over that fash­ion de­tail, rather than the New York Demo­crat’s latest mo­ment of com­pas­sion or thought­ful­ness.

Cleav­age or not, Democrats are trump­ing Repub­li­cans in terms of vis­i­bil­ity, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter poll con­ducted July 23 to 27. When asked who made the news most fre­quently, 67 per­cent of re­spon­dents named a Demo­crat while 8 per­cent named a Repub­li­can. Cor­re­spond­ingly, 40 per­cent of Repub­li­can re­spon­dents said there was too much elec­tion cov­er­age, com­pared with 19 per­cent of Democrats.

The Alma Col­lege sur­vey, mean­while, re­vealed a tepid po­lit­i­cal out­look among its re­spon­dents. Twen­ty­five per­cent char­ac­ter­ized na­tional po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship as good or ex­cel­lent, while 74 per­cent ranked it fair or poor. The Pen­tagon fared bet­ter, with 67 per­cent rat­ing mil­i­tary lead­er­ship as good or ex­cel­lent and 29 per­cent fair or poor.

Still, Pres­i­dent Bush was at the top of a list of 75 “su­pe­rior” lead­ers cited from any field, in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, busi­ness, re­li­gion and ed­u­ca­tion. Mr. Bush was fol­lowed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, the Rev. Billy Gra­ham, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Colin L. Pow­ell, “my dad,” Mi­crosoft founder Bill Gates, for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, Sen. Barack Obama, Illi­nois Demo­crat, for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani and Mrs. Clin­ton. Lead­er­ship may be a fam­ily mat­ter as well. “My spouse” was at No. 13 and “my mom” at No. 15.

The poll of 1,200 adults was con­ducted Feb. 3 to March 13 and had a mar­gin of er­ror of three per­cent­age points.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Thank you very much: For­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton placed sec­ond in a re­cent poll of “su­pe­rior” lead­ers.

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