Honesty and good communication skills are the top qualities Canadians think ideal and successful political leaders should have, according to a new survey by Nanos Research.

As parties begin to plan for the 2015 election campaign, personality politics and how Canadians judge each of the federal leaders will be a major part of the plan, says Nik Nanos, and the research suggests honesty, good communication and strong beliefs trumps making the best decisions for a political party every time.

The number: 


 Percentage of Canadians that say being partisan is important to being the ideal political leader.

Source: Nanos Research, 1,000 randomly selected Canadians recruited by telephone using live agents and administered an online survey, Aug. 18-22, 2013. Accurate ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Respondents were asked to rate the importance of a number of qualities the ideal political leader holds, 95 per cent of respondents thought honesty is an important attribute for the ideal political leader.

Ninety per cent said having strong communication skills was important, 55 per cent thought strong beliefs were important, 48 per cent said having a sense of humour was important and at the bottom of the list at 21 per cent is making the best decisions for a political party.

The Nanos Research Survey was made up of 1,000 randomly selected Canadians recruited by telephone using live agents, who then administered an online survey. It was conducted Aug. 18 to 22 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The full survey will be presented at the Banff Forum on Friday.

Qualities of an ideal leader

Nanos Research, 1,000 randomly selected Canadians recruited by telephone using live agents and administered an online survey, Aug. 18-22, 2013. Accurate ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. (CBC)

Nanos Research also tested the importance of the same qualities in terms of being a successful political leader — to see what people would like compared to what they recognize has an impact and makes for success.

Having good communication skills came in first at 86 per cent. Honesty was second at 82 per cent. Having strong beliefs and a good sense of humour ended up in the middle again at 51 per cent and 48 per cent respectively. And just 28 per cent of Canadians thought making decisions in the best interests of their political party was important for successful leaders.

Qualities of a successful leader

"You look at questions like this and you think of very effective, successful political leaders like Bill Clinton. Wasn't necessarily the most honest guy in the world, however, generally recognized at being a very effective communicator," Nanos said.

Nanos also points to the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Canada right now as a factor that could explain why partisanship is at the bottom of both these lists.

If someone was trying to craft a perfect leader, "perhaps a leader who was seen as putting the interests of the country ahead of his or her political interests, but also the interests of his or her party — that would probably resonate significantly," Nanos said.

Where the federal leaders fit in

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an effective communicator and is known for controlling the government's message, Nanos said.

"You look at numbers like this and it's clear: that type of communications discipline pays dividends," Nanos said.

But the low partisanship numbers could be a drawback for the government if the prime minister looks too partisan going into the next election, Nanos said.

Nanos said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair needs to do more to define himself in terms of some of these top qualities, including honest and communicating.

"Tom Mulcair has been very effective as the leader of the opposition, very effective in the House — but how has he defined his image in terms of honesty and communicating? ... He has to work on definition," Nanos said.

These numbers might be good news for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Nanos said.

"It looks like he's connecting on the trust front, and honesty's important, communication's important, and you look at numbers like this and maybe he aligns a little better because we haven't heard a lot on the policy front."

 Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC News Network's Power & Politics to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives. Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).