Political

New research evidence: local candidates do better in elections

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – two research papers from the EPOP 2016 conference confirming the importance of candidates being local for electoral success.

First, evidence from testing different candidate biographies with voters that voters prefer candidates with local roots, reinforcing the previous research evidence from Phil Cowley and Rosie Campbell.

Data shows voters prefer local candidatesExplaining voter preferences for local legislators using experimental evidence – Rosie Campbell, Phil Cowley, Nick Vivyan and Markus Wagner.

Second, supporting evidence which also dived into what being local really means – and finding clear evidence that what matters is whether or not voters perceive you as local. Strict chronological and geographical examination of a candidate’s record, in other words, is not what drives voter choice but rather a more general perception that is caused by level of activity, knowledge shown of area, length of profile in the area, choice of issues and so on. Where you live is not irrelevant – after all, the address does appear on the ballot paper and so is one of the very last things voters see before voting – but is not in itself sufficient to be considered local.

Perception of locality increases chances of being elected - slide 2

Perception of locality increases chances of being elected - slide 1The advantage of the local candidate? – Jennifer Hudson, Wolfgang Rudig and Javier Sajuria.

The point about perceived localness has an important implication for candidate selection rules in political parties. The further in advance of an election the selection is done – and hence the longer there is to acquire the local perception – the more widely the net can be drawn for candidates without suffering an electoral penalty. That penalty isn’t the all-determining only factor which influences an election result, but the evidence is very consistent: it is a penalty, and hence the strong attraction for selecting candidates early if you want to give more people the chance to be a successful candidate in a seat.

You can read the other posts in the What do the academics say? series here. Note in particular that the appeal of local candidates seems to work better with women than men.

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