Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Steve Brown

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member

Second Advisor

Barry Kay

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member

Third Advisor

Ronald Lambert

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member


The perception of political leaders has been, and continues to be, a primary component in the electoral process. Researchers have presented findings which indicate that the evaluation of party leaders is an important determinant of the vote decision. Even though these findings have aided our understanding of the importance of candidate evaluations, the literature has provided very little information about the dynamics involved in the perception of political leaders. In this thesis, we are interested in the dynamics involved in the evaluation of political leaders. More specifically, our examination concerns the presence of negativity effects which have been identified by social science researchers in a number of settings. We have defined the underlying concept of negativity as the greater importance placed on negatively assessed information in forming an overall evaluation of a given stimulus as compared to equally likely and equally extremely positively assessed information. Our investigation of the relationship between differently evaluated and differently weighted information helps to provide a clearer understanding of the way people evaluate their political leaders. In order to examine the existence of negativity, this thesis focuses on two interpretations of the processing of value-laden information. The first interpretation is that of Lau (1982) which addressed the relational nature of positively and negatively evaluated information. The second interpretation is that of Barr (1988) who viewed the same processing of value-laden information in terms of a multi-dimensional scale. Our examination involves addressing the theoretical and methodological differences of these two interpretations in order to determine the existence of negativity. The data for this thesis will be drawn from the 1984 Canadian National Election Study and the 1984 NES/CPS American National Election Study. Our research centers around two objectives. The first of these considers the question of the equal likelihood and equal extremity of value-laden information. This enables us to turn to our second objective which is the investigation of the relationship between negatively and positively assessed information in the evaluation of political leaders. Our findings show that the question of equal likelihood regarding positively and negatively evaluated information remains unresolved. Similarly, our findings concerning equally extreme valenced information in the Canadian case are inconclusive. We suggest that our inability to establish the equal likelihood and equal extremity of value-laden information may indeed be the result of discrepancies between the Canadian and American survey questions rather than differences between the research methods of Lau and Barr. Furthermore, we show that the presence of a negativity effect is primarily dependent on the theoretical interpretation utilized. Lau’s interpretation finds support for negativity when we analyzed the data using his research methods. Conversely, Barr’s interpretation indicated a “positivity effect” when we employed her methodology to examine our data.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season