Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Arts
Evaluations of political leaders have long been considered an important component of the vote decision. Nevertheless, little research has been conducted in Canada on voters’ overall evaluations of their political leaders. Indeed, the topic has only recently received much systematic attention in the comparative literature. The study of how voters’ judgements about the personality characteristics of candidates affect their overall evaluations of those candidates is an area that has been particularly neglected. In this thesis, we test three hypotheses about the impact of personality trait attributions on voters’ overall evaluations of Canadian federal party leaders. The data for our analyses are drawn from the 1974, 1979 and 1984 Canadian National Election Studies. The first hypothesis is that there is a relationship between trait attributions and voters’ overall evaluations of Canadian political leaders that is independent of such factors as party identification, issue positions, and other impressions of the parties and leaders. This hypothesis is supported. The second hypothesis is that trait attributions will have an impact on voters’ overall evaluations of Liberal and PC leaders second in importance to party identification, and that trait attributions will be second in importance to issue positions with regard to evaluations of NDP leaders. This hypothesis is only partially supported. For Liberal and PC leaders, the impact of party identification on evaluation is generally surpassed by the impact of positive trait attributions. With regard to evaluations of NDP leaders, the impact of issue positions is generally surpassed by the impact of party identification, positive trait attributions and negative trait attributions. The third hypothesis is that attributions of competence and integrity will have a greater impact on overall evaluation than attributions of other personality traits. This hypothesis is also only partially supported. The impact of integrity is considerably less than has been found to be the case by other researchers.
Barr, Cathy Widdis, "The impact of trait attributions on evaluations of political leaders" (1987). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 57.