Prime Ministerial Contenders in Canada

Richard Johnston

in Leaders' Personalities and the Outcomes of Democratic Elections

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780199253135
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599675 | DOI:
Prime Ministerial Contenders in Canada

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For the case of elections since 1988, this chapter looks at the suggestion made by Andre Siegfried in 1907 that Canadian elections are peculiarly vulnerable to leader effects. It begins by outlining the specifically Canadian arguments for taking leadership seriously and the evidence said to back them; the arguments are found to refer mainly to ‘indirect’ effects in the sense used by King in Chapter 1 (so that leaders are treated as embodied preferences), with the actual evidence largely silent on the content – personality or otherwise – of Canadian judgments on leaders, at least in so far as those judgments are linked to the vote. Likewise, most accounts control for competing explanations weakly, if at all, and none considers personality for its net, election–day effect. Working through each argument also reveals that each is highly contingent, generally applying more to certain parties or party sizes than others, and more to periods of flux and to new parties than to stable periods and old parties. Filling the gaps requires an account of the personality factors worth taking seriously (the analysis looks at competence and character), a basic estimation strategy setting these attributes into proper context (which is given), and based on this estimation strategy, an accounting for net aggregate effects (also given). The last two sections of the chapter discuss whether perceptions of personality can be modified over the course of a campaign, and give an account of a special sort of ‘indirect’ effect: the case where perceptions of a leader’s personality can be cashed in on perceptions of a policy option (here the proposal for a commercial union between Canada and the United States in 1988).

Keywords: Canada; candidates' personal characteristics; election campaigns; leaders' character; leaders' competence; leaders' effects; leaders' personalities; leadership; policy options; prime ministers

Chapter.  11037 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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