Leaders' Body Language Speaks Volumes


How interesting!

Voters, in a series of six focus groups, have been asked to interpret the messages and attitudes from the body language of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott from sets of television video clips from the campaign trails – with no sound tracks.
This subset of research was utilised as a control group to a large national study on the role and importance body language has in the loss of sales, goodwill, image and repeat–business for Australian companies from a broad cross–section of retail, maintenance and service sectors. Body language was found to be among the four most influential factors in customer satisfaction and preparedness to buy.
The images received of the two political leaders and perceived by the voter participants were quite definitive and relatively consistent between the six focus group sessions.
Kevin Rudd was characterised as:

  • Tense
  • Intense (lecturing style)
  • Aggressive/assertive
  • Condescending  - (from perceived exaggerated use of hand gestures)
  • Uncomfortable
  • Little or no change from past
  • Best at relating to school age children

Tony Abbott was recognised to exhibit the attributes of being:

  • Calm
  • Measured
  • Defensive
  • Relaxed
  • Confident

Participants stated that they were generally unable or unwilling to comment on or measure their responses on “trust” or “integrity” – based on the video clips.
A majority of voters did not believe the video clips (with no sound) nor the first 2 weeks of election campaigning have greatly influenced or changed their voting intentions.
A significant majority stated that they expected Tony Abbott and the coalition to win the Federal election on Saturday, 7 September.
The most striking points of differentiation in voter comments centred on a marginal shift to the positive in the contention that Tony Abbott is negative, while a majority expressed that they perceived little change in Kevin Rudd’s behaviour, style or campaign from 2007.
In commenting on the findings, research leader Barry Urquhart, Managing Director of Marketing Focus said:
“The decision by Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party to implement a Presidential–style of electioneering has certainly not worked in their respective favour.
Mr Rudd’s body language is perceived to be non–engaging and not endearing.
My Abbott’s body language is to some considerable extent, a neutral factor in his image development, as registered by voters. However, his more stable, casual style is not requiring voters to make value judgements, which by default, in this head–on–head campaign style is a positive.
Clearly voters are looking for performance, not performances or performers... as indicated by the reaction of the electorate of Forde in their responses to the endorsement of former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie”.
The control group interviews were conducted during the week commencing Monday, 12 August.


Barry Urquhart - Managing Director
                       Marketing Focus


[email protected]


Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

You may also like:

Filed under Leadership Development. Posted by The Corporate Toolbox on