Here’s a good test of your ‘90s nostalgia: Would you vote for Bill Gates for president?
In a somewhat idiosyncratic but still illuminating study, 28 percent of respondents said they definitely would—not a bad number considering today’s real live presidential candidates tied or barely exceeded the figure. (Yes, Donald Trump hit the same percentage; Hillary Clinton edged it by just five points.)
But the survey offers a bigger picture of what kind of public figures enjoy some public trust and sympathy these days. Fidelum Partners asked respondents to rate Gates and other A-listers on their warmth and competence—good proxies for leadership, according to leading social psychologists, and a fun way to create a chart with four quadrants of perception:
- Low ratings on both warmth and competence land you in the “contempt and rejection” category, with the likes of Charlie Sheen, Vladimir Putin, and, well, Trump and Clinton.
- Low on warmth but high on competence? It’s “envy and distrust” for Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, and you.
- Maybe you’re not seen as super competent, but there’s just something redeemingly warm about you. Welcome to “sympathy and neglect”—and the company of Bernie Sanders, George W. Bush, and Jessica Simpson.
- That leaves Bill Gates Land—“admiration and loyalty” for those who score big on warmth and competence alike. Here’s president Obama and Warren Buffett…but also Ellen DeGeneres and Mark Zuckerberg, two people not often floated for high office.
One clear takeaway ought to give us pause. At a time when many Americans are uncertain to say the least about handing our future over to Silicon Valley, Wall Street, or other elite bastions, as a whole, we’re still apt to look more favorably on our business geniuses than our top politicians. Maybe Ellen/Zuck ’20 isn’t that farfetched after all. But maybe it’s also true that getting into politics is just a quick and easy way to make enemies.