Being a local candidate wins you more votes, but who are the voters this works for?

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today it is some of the findings about which voters like local candidates.

First a recap: there’s strong and consistent evidence over the years that voters, in the UK at least, like “local” candidates. There is, therefore, a significant electoral benefit for parties to put up candidates who voters perceive as local. “Perceive” covers two wrinkles to this. First, being seen as local isn’t the same as having been born and lived somewhere for 63 years. You can become local without having previously been local. Second, voters need to know this about you to reward you for it.

On then to the new research, which gets into the question of who it is who prefers local candidates. The overall evidence may be that local candidates do better, but who in the electorate is it that this effect works for?

The answer, according to the research, is that the boost of being a local candidate doesn’t vary depending on where on the political spectrum voters are. But being local does appeal more to female voters than to male voters and to less rather than more educated voters.

A warning there to male political activists with degrees who go from ‘I don’t think being local matters’ to ‘no-one thinks being local matters’. Your views are the same as those of people who aren’t like you.

Here’s the full research paper:

Collignon-Delmar, Sofia, and Javier Sajuria. “Who Cares About Local Candidates? Finding Voters That Use Candidate Localness as A Cue for Their Vote Choices”. SocArXiv, 24 Jan. 2018. Web.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

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