Handedness of Presidents of the United States

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The handedness of presidents of the United States is difficult to establish with any certainty before recent decades. 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 prior to the early 20th century.

List of U.S. presidents by handedness since 1923[1][3][4]
Calvin CoolidgeRepublican1923–1929Right-handed
Herbert HooverRepublican1929–1933Left-handed[dubious ]
Franklin D. RooseveltDemocrat1933–1945Right-handed
Harry S. TrumanDemocrat1945–1953Left-handed[5]
Dwight D. EisenhowerRepublican1953–1961Right-handed
John F. KennedyDemocrat1961–1963Right-handed
Lyndon B. JohnsonDemocrat1963–1969Right-handed
Richard NixonRepublican1969–1974Right-handed
Gerald FordRepublican1974–1977Left-handed Ambidextrous
Jimmy CarterDemocrat1977–1981Right-handed
Ronald ReaganRepublican1981–1989Left-handed Ambidextrous
George H. W. BushRepublican1989–1993Left-handed
Bill ClintonDemocrat1993–2001Left-handed
George W. BushRepublican2001–2009Right-handed
Barack ObamaDemocrat2009–presentLeft-handed

The first president to be described as left-handed was Herbert Hoover,[6] though this has been disputed.[3] There is no evidence of any left-handed president before Hoover. Although, it was said about President James Garfield that he could simultaneously write Latin with his right hand and Greek with his left.[4] Gerald Ford was also ambidextrous. He described himself as "left-handed sitting down and right-handed standing up".[7] Being forced by his schoolteachers and parents to switch handedness was the case with Harry Truman, according to the biographer David McCullough.[8]

Ronald Reagan is also rumored to have been left-hand dominant, but forced by his schoolteachers and parents to switch.[6] Documentation of this is unreliable. If true, it would place Reagan in the category of ambidextrous presidents.[3] Historical photographs of Reagan signing treaties, pacts or pieces of legislation show him signing with his right hand. Additionally, several photographs exist showing Reagan throwing baseballs and footballs as a right-hander. However, Ronald Reagan did wear and display his weapon on his left hip and left hand, when he played a cowboy during his acting career.

As of 2014, three out of the last four presidents have been left-handed. Counting as far back as Truman, the number is five (or seven, if the two ambidextrous presidents are included) out of twelve. In the 1992 election, all three major candidates – George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot – were left-handed.[3] 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 election, democratic candidate Al Gore was also left-handed.[9] Both major-party candidates in the 2008 presidential election – Barack Obama and John McCain – were left-handed.[10]

The percentage of the population who are left-handed is about 10%.[4] While some write off the pattern of presidential handedness as a coincidence, others have tried to come up with scientific explanations. According to Daniel Geschwind, a professor of human genetics at UCLA, in 2008: "Six out of the past 12 presidents is statistically significant and probably means something".[4]

Amar Klar, a scientist who has worked on handedness, says 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.[6] 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 can give them extra mental resilience.[1]

The pattern, however, is not replicated in other countries; only two British post-war prime ministers have been left-handed (David Cameron[11] and James Callaghan).[4] Winston Churchill has often been credited with being a left-hander, although he was not.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Chung, Andrew (2008-03-02). "Odds are next U.S. president will be left-handed". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  2. ^ Macrae, Fiona (2008-10-24). "As two lefties vie for the American presidency... why are so many U.S. premiers left-handed?". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d Rotstein, Gary (2008-02-25). "Another left-handed president? It's looking that way.". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Pilkington, Ed (2008-10-24). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  5. ^ McCullough, David. "Truman". p47 "Naturally left handed, he was taught [by his teachers] to use his right hand".
  6. ^ a b c James, Susan Donaldson (2008-02-22). "Four Out of Five Recent Presidents Are Southpaws". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York; London: Simon & Schuster. p. 43. ISBN 0-671-45654-7. 
  9. ^ Pilkington, Ed (October 23, 2008). "Revealed: The leftist plot to control the White House". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Rotstein, Gary (February 25, 2008). "Another left-handed president? It's looking that way". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  11. ^ "Picture of Cameron signing". Flickr. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  12. ^ Ed Wright, A Left-handed History of the World (2007) p.244

Further reading[edit]