Through his own nature, Palpatine was evil incarnate. He insistently made clear to Anakin Skywalker, however, that he was not evil, simply beyond common morality, calling evil "a label we all put on those who threaten us." Aside from his opinion on morality, he believed himself to be the embodiment of darkness and the living incarnation of the dark side of the Force, and, after the death of his body, he saw himself as pure energy, or simply the dark side itself. He was instinctively treacherous, betraying and killing numerous beings who trusted him, such as Vidar Kim, Darth Plagueis and nearly, Darth Vader. Ever since his youth, Palpatine's main goal was nothing less than the acquisition of absolute power. In this personal quest, he showed that he was also patient, vastly intelligent, and an incredible actor able to keep up the façade of a good and honest politician for a prodigious number of years. His skill at subterfuge was sufficient to even convince Darth Plagueis, upon the latter's revelation that he was a Sith, that he knew little of that Order, when he in fact had sought to join the Sith long before he met the Dark Lord. As both Senator of Naboo and Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, he appeared as an unassuming, tea-drinking old man, almost grandfatherly, with elegant robes. With his cheery demeanor, trademark smile, and a reputation for being a kind and modest man from Naboo, he won the hearts of billions during the Clone Wars, promising to bring justice to a government mired in corruption and chaos, thus hiding his true motives behind the perfect disguise in order to gain acceptance for his new Empire.
Even as a child, Palpatine was demonstrated to be manipulative, sociopathic, and self-centered. This is especially evident by his frequent breaking of various rules and social norms, knowing full well that his father, whom he hated, would simply pay off the authorities to make the problem disappear, and his declaration upon causing an accident that killed two pedestrians while using a speeder that he'd like to become a professional racer.