Skip to main content Accessibility help

Comment: Qualls's Nonsensical Analysis of Nonexistent Works

  • James David Barber (a1)


James Barber's predictive theory of presidential behavior has evoked varied reactions, which have ranged from praise for its sensitization of readers to the fact that personality affects presidential performance, to criticisms for the emphasis that the theory places on personality, to questions about the validity of the theory. This article addresses itself to the criticisms and the questions.

Concerning the questions, it shows, first, that in analyzing presidents, Barber assumes the validity of “character” – the core construct of the theory. It shows, second, that Barber's earlier research on Connecticut legislators, from which “character” derives, does not empirically establish the construct.

Concerning the criticisms, the article isolates a possible origin of the psychological reductionism evident in Barber's explanations of presidential performance. The article identifies a similar reductionism in Barber's legislative research and attributes this reductionism to a fallacious extra-empirical argument.



Hide All

1 I tried that in The Question of Presidential Character,” Saturday Review (September 23, 1972), pp. 6266.

2 However, now that he has “published in the APSR,” he can of course be taken as an expert.

3 Barbels Typological Analysis of Political Leaders,” APSR, 71 (March, 1977), 184.

4 The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House (Prentice-Hall, 1972), pp. 1213. Quoting such summary passages out of context, without the mass of evidence on which they are based, sharply decreases their impact. But at least the meaning is clearer than the little phrases Mr. Quails extracts. For readers unfamiliar with the book, The Presidential Character devotes most of its 479 pages to biographical material.

5 Barber, , Presidential Character, pp. 9697.

6 Ibid., p. 42.

7 Barber, , Presidential Character, p. 43.

8 Ibid., pp. 56–57.

9 Ibid., pp. 97–98.

10 Barber, , Presidential Character, pp. 360361.

11 Ibid., pp. 375–376.

12 Ibid., p. 379.

13 Ibid., p. 380.

14 Barber, , Presidential Character, pp. 382383.

15 Ibid., p. 383.

16 Ibid., p. 384.

17 Ibid., p. 385.

18 Ibid., p. 387.

19 Ibid., p. 388.

20 Ibid., p. 389.

21 Ibid., p. 391.

22 Ibid., p. 292.

23 Ibid., p. 418.

24 Barber, , Presidential Character, pp. 441442.

25 “Barber's Typological Analysis,” p. 210. Mr. Quails now has the title of Bruce Mazlish's book (In Search of Nixon) right. Quails cites no evidence at all that Nixon was correctly predibted by others, others.

26 Strategies for Understanding Politicians,” American Journal of Political Science, 18 (Spring, 1974), 443467.

27 Whenever Quails exhausts his own vocabulary of synonyms, he quotes George quoting Barber.

28 The Presidential Character is about William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and presidents yet to be.

29 “Barber's Typological Analysis,” pp. 188–189.

30 Ibid., p. 189.

31 Loc. cit.

32 Barber, James David, “Coding Scheme for Presidential Biographies,” (mimeographed, January, 1968), p. 6.

33 Barber, , “Coding Scheme for Presidential Biographies,” p. 39.

34 “Barber's Typological Analysis,” p. 193.

35 Barber, , Presidential Character, p. 6.

36 ”Barber's Typological Analysis,” p. 183.

37 Barber, , Presidential Character, p. 11.

38 Barber, James David, The Lawmåkers (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1965), p. 213.

39 “Barber's Typological Analysis,” p. 209.

40 Barber, , Lawmakers, p. vii.

41 Barber, , Lawmakers, p. 17.

43 Barber, , Lawmakers, p. 15.

44 Ibid., p. 16.

45 Barber, , Lawmakers, pp. 271272.

46 Ibid., p. 141.

47 That is about all Table 8 shows. Why Mr. Quails would expect answers to the activity questions to correlate significantly with passive-negative affects (what he wants to call “attitude”) is beyond me. But beyond that, the matter is absurd. Tau and Fisher's Exact must blush to be applied in this fashion. Tables 10, 11, and 12 are equally mysterious. I should have been very much surprised to find convincingly high correlations in this table. What Mr. Quails is doing is giving the impression that I made predictions I did not make, We have a word fpr this in North Carolina.

48 As his paper progresses, Quails grasps at weaker and weaker straws. He is not even above relying on an obvious misquote from an inexperienced newspaper reporter who gets the matter garbled in his scrambled eggs at a breakfast interview.

49 Barber, , Lawmakers, p. 99.

50 Ibid., p. 274.

51 “Barber's Typological Analysis,” p. 211.

Comment: Qualls's Nonsensical Analysis of Nonexistent Works

  • James David Barber (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed