Crisis and Charisma in the California Recall Election

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Organization Development | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The 2003 California recall election represented a unique opportunity to study leadership in the context of what has been described in the popular media as an economic and political crisis. Participants (N= 311) reported their perceptions of the current situation in California and their tendency to attribute outcomes to leaders rather than situational factors (the Romance of Leadership Scale, or RLS). They subsequently watched video clips of the incumbent, the incumbent party challenger and the outside challenger, and rated their delivery style, charisma and expected effectiveness in office. Results indicate that both challengers were rated as more charismatic than the incumbent, and crisis perceptions were related to expected effectiveness ratings for all three candidates. In addition, higher charismatic delivery was associated with higher ratings of charisma and effectiveness. Finally, the RLS was significantly related to ratings of the outside challenger’s charisma, and interacted with crisis perceptions to predict charisma ratings of both the incumbent party challenger and the outside challenger. Implications for the relationship between crisis and charisma, the importance of charismatic delivery style, and situational influences on the RLS are discussed.

Rights Information

© 2005 SAGE Publications