Handedness of Presidents of the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The handedness of presidents of the United States is difficult to establish with any certainty before the 20th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries left-handedness was considered a disability, and teachers would make efforts to suppress it in their students.[1][2] For this reason there are few concrete references to determine the handedness of presidents in those times.

As of 2014, four out of the last six presidents have been left-handed if Ronald Reagan is included (though this is disputed).[3][4] Counting as far back as the presidency of Harry S. Truman, the number is six (including Reagan) out of twelve. However, not all sources agree that Reagan was left-handed.[5] In one interview, Reagan indicated that he had been born left-handed, but that school and parental pressure forced him to switch to using his right hand.[4]

In the 1992 United States presidential election, all three major candidates, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, were left-handed.[5] The 1996 election also involved three left-handed candidates: Clinton, Perot, and Bob Dole, who learned to use his left hand after his right hand was paralyzed by a World War II injury. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, Bush, Gore, and Kerry were all right-handed.[6][7] Both major-party candidates in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama and John McCain, were left-handed.[5]

List of U.S. presidents by handedness since 1923[1][5][8]
President Party Term Handedness
Calvin Coolidge Republican 1923–1929 Right-handed
Herbert Hoover Republican 1929–1933 Disputed[5]
Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic 1933–1945 Right-handed
Harry S. Truman Democratic 1945–1953 Left-handed[9]
Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican 1953–1961 Right-handed
John F. Kennedy Democratic 1961–1963 Right-handed
Lyndon B. Johnson Democratic 1963–1969 Right-handed
Richard Nixon Republican 1969–1974 Right-handed
Gerald Ford Republican 1974–1977 Left-handed
Jimmy Carter Democratic 1977–1981 Right-handed
Ronald Reagan Republican 1981–1989 Ambidexterity[5]
George H. W. Bush Republican 1989–1993 Left-handed
Bill Clinton Democratic 1993–2001 Left-handed
George W. Bush Republican 2001–2009 Right-handed
Barack Obama Democratic 2009–present Left-handed

The first president to be described as left-handed was Herbert Hoover,[4][5][dubious ] though this has been disputed. There is no evidence of any left-handed presidents before Hoover, although it was said that President James Garfield could simultaneously write Latin with his right hand and Greek with his left.[8] Gerald Ford described himself as "left-handed sitting down and right-handed standing up".[10] Harry S. Truman was forced by his schoolteachers and parents to switch to using his right hand, according to biographer David McCullough.[9][11]

The percentage of the population who are left-handed is about 10%.[8] In the popular press, various scientists have commented on this statistical anomaly.[citation needed] Amar Klar, a geneticist with the National Cancer Institute who has researched the possible genetic components to handedness, believes that left-handed people "have a wider scope of thinking", and points to the disproportionately high number of Nobel Prize winners, writers, and painters who are left-handed. This remains, however, unproven.[4] Michael Peters, a neuropsychologist at the University of Guelph, points out that left-handed people have to get by in a world adapted to right-handers, something which might give them extra mental resilience.[1] Geneticist Daniel Geschwind, in 2009, summarized the state of research into Presidential handedness as follows: "From a statistical standpoint, it looks like something's going on, but what it is, we don't know."[12]

The pattern, however, is not replicated among the fourteen post-World-War-II prime ministers of Great Britain. Only two prime ministers after World War II, David Cameron and James Callaghan, have been left-handed.


  1. ^ a b c Chung, Andrew (2 March 2008). "Odds are next U.S. president will be left-handed". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ Macrae, Fiona (24 October 2008). "As two lefties vie for the American presidency... why are so many U.S. premiers left-handed?". The Daily Mail. Retrieved October 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ "Top 10 Lefties". Time. New York. 13 August 2014. Retrieved March 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d James, Susan Donaldson (22 February 2008). "Four Out of Five Recent Presidents Are Southpaws". ABC News. Retrieved March 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Rotstein, Gary (25 February 2008). "Another left-handed president? It's looking that way". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ "presidents left beats right hands down". 
  7. ^ Pilkington, Ed (October 23, 2008). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ a b c Pilkington, Ed (24 October 2008). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House". The Guardian. Retrieved October 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ a b McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York; London: Simon & Schuster. p. 43. ISBN 0-671-45654-7. 
  10. ^ Kaczmarczyk, Jeffrey (December 14, 2012). "See two little-known secrets about President Ford revealed in a televised 1955 Christmas message". mlive.com. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  11. ^ McCullough, David. "Truman". p47 "Naturally left handed, he was taught [by his teachers] to use his right hand".
  12. ^ "White House leans again to the left(ies)". NBC News. 21 January 2009. 

Further reading[edit]