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Party Leaders are People Too

February 4, 2015

By Bruce Anderson and David Coletto

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Our latest nationwide study of political opinion included some questions that were intended to explore what underlying perceptions Canadians have about the traits and talents of the three main party leaders. We posed a series of 16 different questions, and asked respondents to indicate which of the three leaders was most closely matched to the descriptor. Respondents received a random set of 8  scenarios.

Highlights

Stephen Harper was first choice on 5 of 16 items. The plurality picked him as the leader best suited:

• To be the CEO of a large company (47%)
• To give you advice about how to invest your money (46%)
• To give you advice about your career (41%)
• To give advice to your children about their future (37%)
• To have negotiate a contract on your behalf (38%)

Mr. Harper’s weaker associations were these:

• Most like to vacation with (24%)
• Most able to survive in the wilderness (24%)
• Most likely to stop and help if your car was stranded (22%)
• Trust to choose a good movie to watch (21%)

Thomas Mulcair was first choice on 1 of 16 items. The plurality picked him as best suited:

• To lend you $100 if you needed it (38%)

However he also finished close second on the following items, (in each case to Mr. Harper):

• To have negotiate a contract on your behalf (35%)
• To give you advice about your career (36%)
• To give advice to your children about their future (33%)

Mr. Mulcair’s weaker associations were these:

• Prefer to have babysit your kids for an evening (28%)
• Most like to have over for dinner with your family (25%)
• Most want to hear sing your favourite song (23%)
• Most like to go on vacation with (21%)

Justin Trudeau was first choice on 10 of 16 items, coming out on top on these items:

• Most like to vacation with (55%)
• Trust to choose a good movie to watch (53%)
• Most want to hear sing your favourite song (47%)
• Prefer to have babysit your kids (44%)
• Most like to have over for dinner with your family (43%)
• Most able to survive in the wilderness (42%)
• Cook the best meal (41%)
• Most like to have speak at an event in your neighborhood (41%)
• Most likely to stop and help if your car was stranded (40%)
• Trust to look after your pet (40%)

Mr. Trudeau’s weaker associations were these:

• To have negotiate a contract on your behalf (26%)
• To give you advice about how to invest your money (24%)
• To give you advice about your career (24%)
• To be the CEO of a large company (23%)

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The Upshot

According to Abacus Chairman Bruce Anderson:

These numbers paint a more detailed picture of the competition among these leaders, illuminating some of their strengths and the challenges they must seek to overcome. Mr. Harper is seen as a solid choice when it comes to the some key attributes that people look for when it comes to leadership, especially financial and management skills. At the same time, he is seen as less approachable and compassionate than his rivals.

For Mr. Mulcair the result indicate that people tend to see him as compassionate and competent, themes that he has been at pains to draw out since becoming leader of the NDP. However he is also seen as somewhat less approachable than Mr. Trudeau and not on a par with Mr. Harper in terms of CEO skills and financial judgment.

For Justin Trudeau, the results underscore the popular chord he has struck, and many Canadians sense he would be able to empathize with them and be enjoyable company. These are traits many politicians aspire to, and few achieve to this level. At the same time, Mr. Trudeau finds some hesitation on the part of voters. When it comes to his ability to manage a large organization, make sound financial decisions, negotiate on behalf of others, these data suggest he is well liked, but that he has work to do to strengthen confidence that he is a better choice across the board

We intend to revisit these traits over time, including measuring the impact of advertising on the perceptions of these leaders’ strengths and weaknesses.  Detailed tables are available here (pdf)

Methodology

Our survey was conducted online with 1,005 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 26 to January 28, 2015. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and value added insight. Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD. For more information, visit our website at http://www.abacusdata.ca/

In case you missed it, here are some of our recent releases:

Federal Tories and Liberals in a Dead Heat

Economic anxiety on the rise; Canadians want pragmatic policy making

Should carbon be priced?  Should public opinion decide pipelines?

Looks, Gender, and Ideas: Do these matter?

Political Leaders’ Choices and Voters’ Perspectives


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