New Polling from Abacus Data

Political Leaders as Brands: What do Voters See?
By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

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Our latest nationwide polling asked respondents to consider a series of choices of words or thoughts and asked which they most associated with three main party leaders.  Our findings:

For Thomas Mulcair

His strongest attributes were: good guy, serious and competent. More than 70% associated these thoughts with the NDP leader.  60% or more also associated Mr. Mulcair with: successful, good ideas, brilliant (the other choice was “lacking intelligence”), trustworthy, even-tempered, future, experienced, thinks of others, reasonable (not “radical”) and new ideas.    Areas of relative weakness (40% or more associated these with Mr. Mulcair):  old ideas, tired, old fashioned.  

 For Stephen Harper

His strongest attributes were: experienced and serious. More than 70% associated these thoughts with the Conservative leader. 60% or more also associated Mr. Harper with: competent, even-tempered, good guy, successful, brilliant, and reasonable.  Areas of relative weakness (40% or more):  self-centered, tired, past (not future), not trustworthy, old fashioned, old ideas, bad ideas, and radical.  

For Justin Trudeau

Mr. Trudeau’s strongest attributes were: young at heart, good guy, modern, new ideas, future, even tempered. More than 70% associated these with the Liberal leader.  More than 60% also associated Mr. Trudeau with: successful, brilliant, competent, good ideas, trustworthy.   Areas of relative weakness (40% or more associated these with Mr. Trudeau) are:  unproven, radical, and self-centered).   People were evenly divided on whether Mr. Trudeau was more serious, or more fun

Another way to examine these numbers is to look at which leader is most closely associated with different attributes. Here is a selection:

Experienced         Harper 74% Mulcair 64% Trudeau 40%
Modern        Trudeau 79% Mulcair 58% Harper 50%
Future            Trudeau 76% Mulcair 65% Harper 52%
New Ideas        Trudeau 74% Mulcair 60% Harper 49%
Even tempered    Trudeau 71% Mulcair 67% Harper 64%
Good guy        Mulcair 78% Trudeau 78% Harper 62%
Competent         Mulcair 74% Trudeau 64% Harper 64%
Good ideas         Mulcair 69% Trudeau 64% Harper 55%.
Trustworthy         Mulcair 68% Trudeau 61% Harper 52%
Thinks of others    Mulcair 63% Trudeau 54% Harper 44% 
The Upshot?

Clearly, many people see positive attributes in each of the party leaders. The Prime Minister is seen serious, experienced and competent. He’s more likely seen as a good guy than a bad person, but his ideas are seen by some as more dated and controversial.  He scores weakest on “thinking of others”.  On questions of competence and brainpower, the PM is competitive, but does not lead the others.

Mr. Mulcair is generally quite well regarded by voters. His biggest advantage over the others are being seen as a good guy, competent and empathetic.  His challenges are largely vis a vis Mr. Trudeau, compared to who he is seen as less contemporary.  Despite the “angry Tom” critique sometimes heard, Canadians generally see him as even-tempered. He is not seen as particularly radical.

Mr. Trudeau is seen as someone who can bring a fresh, modern perspective to political leadership.  He is seen as a likeable individual. He is seen as lacking in experience, but competitive when it comes to competence and brainpower.  His biggest risk factors are that one in two wonder if his ideas may be radical, and the feeling that he has less experience than his competitors. 


Our survey was conducted online with 1,460 Canadians aged 18 and over from February 12 to February 16, 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 +/- 2.6%, 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. 

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