How often do people like a leader?

Richard Prebble makes an interesting observation in The Listener:

. . . The polls are amazing. John Key is not only our most popular Prime Minister in the history of polling, but also the most popular leader in the Western world. Key is on 62%; Barack Obama is on 41%. Tony Abbott was elected in a landslide and, still in the honeymoon period, is on 47%. The Queen asks Key to Balmoral for the same reason Obama asks him to play golf: they like him. Heck, I like him. There is no one we would rather have in charge in a crisis. . . .

How often do people really like a leader and when was the last time we had a leader who wasn’t just popular but who was widely  liked here and further afield?

We’ve had popular Prime Ministers, we’ve had ones who have been admired, more than a few who were disliked and some who were feared. But widely liked well beyond their parties and personal friends?  I can’t remember one.

Leaders often aren’t likeable but John Key is. Not universally of course, some people won’t be able to see beyond their politics to the person. But people who know him like him and so does the general public.

Prebble thinks National will win the election and the PM’s likeability is a major reason for that.

He may or may not be right about the outcome of the election, but he is right about people liking the PM and that gives him, and National, a huge advantage.

The popularity of Prime Ministers and Presidents fluctuates for all sorts of political reasons. A leader’s likeability is more stable and will often trump politics.

6 Responses to How often do people like a leader?

  1. Andrei says:

    Here’s a telling point from Chris Trotter’s piece that you omitted

    Key has an advantage, which I do not like. He could easily be a Labour Prime Minister. He occupies the same part of the political spectrum as Helen Clark.

    Sad but true and those who voted National in 2008 to bring the Clark regime to an end have been sorely disappointed, even if we do like John Key the man.


  2. homepaddock says:

    It was Richard Prebble who said that and he’s wrong. Key and National swallowed dead rats to get elected eg working for families and have kept promises made about them.

    But they’ve also done a whole lot of things Clark and Labour never did, nor would, and which they’ve fought tooth and nail in opposition eg the better public services which is getting more for less money; higher expectations for beneficiaries and more help for those who can work to do so; tax cuts; getting back to surplus in spite of the GFC and earthquakes when Labour left office forecasting a decade of deficits before those hurdles; partial sale of some SOEs; . . .

    Lots of people would like the government to go further to the right – I would in some areas. But I accept the reality of politics and that small steps,taking enough people with you is more likely to allow you back into government to do more than more radical changes which alienate voters and get undone with a change of government.

    As Eric Roy said: “But in politics you have to remember one thing: you will agree with about 80 per cent of anything, 10 per cent you can be persuaded on and 10 per cent you don’t agree with – that’s the basic rule when you are in any party, otherwise you will stand for nothing,” he said. ”


  3. Andrei says:

    But they’ve also done a whole lot of things Clark and Labour never did, nor would,…..

    You’re spinning, you are a tribal Nat.

    Example – when National was in opposition and Helen Clark’s Government introduced the ETS and John Key opposed it.

    Once In government he allowed it to go ahead, modifying it slightly to reduce the negative impact it would have on his core rural base, while leaving intact those parts of it they might be able to profit from.

    This is called political “pragmatism” perhaps or political “cronyism” – either way the ordinary joe looses.


  4. Gravedodger says:

    Andrei you and those of similar self destructive bent need to consider Lyndon Johnston’s pithy comment on where to be when passing water in or around a tent.

    Ruth Richardson had a very coherent and forward policy grasp, building on the work of Roger Douglas and couldn’t even get sufficient support from her leader or enough of her colleagues, that is the art of the achievable in politics.

    Scorched earth worked very well in thwarting Hitlers march into Russia but it was very costly economically and electorally had no moment.

    Laudable as your stand is, based on your beliefs, it is poorly targeted as after the dust settles we will still be punching a very ethereal mindset that has been ingrained in our political psyche since the then laudable and badly needed efforts of Savage and co in 1935.
    I do not think even the architects of that rescue package based on need and bulwarked by pride and personal responsibility had a clue as to how decadence, lethargy, self indulgence and a sense of entitlement would see the whole welfare system reach such destructive levels 80 years on.


  5. homepaddock says:

    Andrei @ 10:48 – the policy you pick would be in the 10% I don’t support but I’m sure that what was done was what they said they’d do before the election.

    Individual policies matter and we’ll all have varying opinions on which matter more. But more important than a particular policy is the overall direction and whether the government is making a positive difference.

    In politics, as in most other areas of life, we can’t get everything we want. Sometimes you have to choose the one to which you’re least opposed if you can’t find one you actively support.

    I’m partisan and make no secret about that. I support National because it is the party whose philosophy is most closely aligned to mine.

    I don’t support all its policies. But have no doubt the country is better now than it would be under a Labour/Green and whichever of the other parties they’d need for a majority; in spite of those policies I don’t like and because of others it has implemented.

    One of those is funding maternity services to enable women who choose to stay in birthing centres until breast feeding is established to do so. It’s a policy which most people aren’t even aware of but it makes a positive difference to the families who make use of it.


  6. Andrei says:

    LOL GD – quoting LBJ, who is almost caricature of everything that is bad about self serving politicians. And one whose presidency was an unmitigated disaster 🙂

    But take this statement of Ele’s, for example

    Key and National swallowed dead rats to get elected eg working for families and have kept promises made about them.

    What is wrong with WFF? It is political smoke and mirrors to be sure but at it does contain within it an acknowledgement, begrudging perhaps, that raising children is an economic activity and one which the Government should encourage and support.

    And therein lies my antipathy, perhaps, to our current political elites because they utterly fail to comprehend the importance to this nation’s future welfare of raising children, well socialised and prepared to take on adult responsibilities when their time to do so comes – and that the best way to do this is in families consisting of a Father and Mother in a home where they, the parents, are sovereign.

    Anyway none of this effects me personally, my kids are grown, have chosen, or are choosing, to build there futures elsewhere because they are/will achieve greater prosperity in so doing and our self serving rulers have failed to engender a sense of patriotic duty to the Nation in their hearts and minds.

    Which is why this nation is going to fall – but we will probably be in our graves before then so why worry?


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