Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On positive attributes

Following up on this post, let's take a more systematic look at the Angus Reid leadership numbers and what they say about the relative perceptions of each federal leader. The chart below includes the total and averages for the "positive" and "negative" options in Angus Reid's attribute pairings:

Leader Positive (Total) Positive (Average) Negative (Total) Negative (Average)
Jack Layton 205 22.8 131 14.6
Stephen Harper 137 15.2 266 29.6
Gilles Duceppe 97 10.8 187 20.8
Michael Ignatieff 89 9.9 244 27.1

Note that I've used the numbers from Angus Reid's detailed results chart, which may not entirely match the numbers reported for the poll: in particular, Stephen Harper's "intelligent" score is listed as 14 in the chart, rather than 34 in the article reporting the results.* And I'll note that I've calculated the "average" simply by dividing by the number of attributes of each type; one could add another layer of detail by accounting for respondents with no opinion (which would increase Duceppe's relative average numbers) and accounting for respondents who listed less than the maximum number of options.

But whatever one does with those details, the end results are the same. Three of the four leaders in the House of Commons are identified primarily with negative attributes, with those outnumbering positive associates by a margin between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1. Meanwhile, Jack Layton stands out as carrying positive overall perceptions by a substantial margin - which should offer reason for commentators to take another look before declaring that none of the federal leaders inspire confidence among Canadians.

Of course, it's true that the gap between Layton and Harper looks to be far larger in among the attributes than it is among the overall approval ratings. But while I'd certainly prefer to see the leader and party numbers move further in the same direction, the difference would seem to offer a massive opportunity for the NDP on the more important indicators. After all, the gap would only make sense based on either a massive enthusiasm gap among the leaders' supporters, or a far more positive reception for Layton among the "not sures" in the poll - and either way, those underlying perceptions would offer a strong opportunity to turn Layton's positive personal traits today into more substantial support when it counts.

*Update: Angus Reid's chart has since been corrected to reflect that the correct scores for Stephen Harper are Intelligent 34/Foolish 14. I've fixed the chart above accordingly.

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