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Keywords:

  • Leader impressions;
  • cross-national comparison of leader impressions;
  • political cognition;
  • public opinion

This study was designed to determine the key dimensions along which individuals judge the personalities of political and nonpolitical public figures in three countries—the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Samples of student respondents from each country used a 40-item trait battery to indicate their impressions of three national and two or three international political figures, as well as three nonpolitical public figures. The results indicated that certain key dimensions (charisma, competence, and integrity) were central features in both the description and evaluation of domestic political figures in all three countries. However, the weights assigned to these dimensions in determining overall evaluations varied in systematic ways, both within a nation's leader cohort and across samples. There were strong similarities across the three samples (especially between the Canadian and U.S. samples) in the criteria they used to evaluate the most salient leaders in their respective countries. The same common model of evaluation was less useful in judgments of the less salient leaders, foreign leaders, and nonpolitical public figures.