Who has the Higher EQ: Gillard or Abbott?

Last Updated Aug 8, 2010 7:40 PM EDT

Some of you may be aware that we Australians are in the middle of an election. The current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was only appointed six weeks ago after leading a coup d'etat against Kevin Rudd. The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott was elected by his party six months ago by one vote.

One of my favourite books about politics is The Political Brain by Drew Westen. The book's subheading is How we make up our minds without using are heads and Westen argues convincingly that it is the politician who can connect emotionally with the voter who will win. Many non-Americans found it difficult to believe how Bush beat both Gore and Kerry but Westin describes how Bush had much higher emotional intelligence than either Democratic candidate. In one presidential debate Gore was using multiple statistics in to prove a point. The Bush riposte was devastating: Bush: "Look, this is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math." Bush connected with most of the voters at that moment.

Westin demonstrates in his book that people vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the candidate who presents the best arguments.

So who has the higher EQ, Julia Gillard or Tony Abbot?

In terms of IQ, Julia appears definitely higher even though Tony Abbot is a Rhodes Scholar. However in EQ, Tony may be in front.

Julia is highly controlled and driven by a strong desire to win. In Humm terms, Julia is an Normal-Politician. This combination makes for a forceful leader and Julia has certainly demonstrated these qualities while she was Minister for Education. Her redeeming feature is her humorous honesty at laughing at herself. On the other had she has had to make a number of sacrifices to reach the top. She is not married, and no one knows anything about her de facto partner except that he is a hairdresser. She is a self-confessed atheist and commendably frank about it. Julia appeals to the inner city feminists but in the outer-suburbs of the major cities, where the marginal seats are, families and religion (via the evangelical movement) are core emotional drivers.

Tony, on the other hand, has unbelievable energy and despite the campaign being run by the Labor party was a hard-working and effective Government Minister. Many of the reforms he introduced were kept by the current Labor Government. Tony is a Mover-Engineer. He doesn't have the self-control (high normal) of Julia and has a history of impulsively shooting from the hip but is learning to control it.

If you look at family and religion Tony wins handsomely. Tony's ostentatiously uxorious family life sets a model and image that Julia can't match. Mrs Abbott has joined her husband on the campaign trail and so have their three daughters. Tony is a fervent Catholic. Religion may not play well in the inner suburbs but no one criticises Tony's beliefs in the outer suburbs; indeed they relate to them at a visceral level. Australia media commentators discuss religion vary rarely but for connecting emotionally it is a very powerful tool.

When Tony was elected Leader of the Opposition, the media and most of the Labor party leaders were dismissive of his ability to be effective. Only Graham Richardson, perhaps Labor's most formidable campaign strategist took an opposite view warning that Abbot would unite the party behind him and be a formidable opponent. Graham is turning out to be correct.

The odds still favour Labor in that since Federation in 1900 only one government has been voted out after one term but if Abbot does win, Westin's hypothesis will be demonstrated again.