What do voters think of job-sharing Members of Parliament?

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – what voters think of job-sharing MPs.

The idea that people should be able to job-share the role of MP has gained prominence in recent years, including being pushed by some strong supporters within the Liberal Democrats although without winning, as yet, majority support in the party.

The research in question is another article co-authored by Phil Cowley, this time with Rosie Campbell. The picture they found of British public opinion on the issue is a nuanced one, so the full paper is well worth reading (see below), but these are my highlights from it:

Job shares – in which two or more people working on a part-time basis share the same fulltime position – are an increasingly common form of employment. ACAS’s 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey found that job sharing was available to 41% of employees, up from 31% in 1998…

One group currently not able to job-share in the UK are elected politicians…

As the Liberal Democrat supporters of the idea claim: ‘Research shows that one of the main barriers to increasing women’s participation in
politics is perceived incompatibility with family life, while evidence from professions such as medicine, law and the senior civil service suggests that provision for part-time working significantly increases the talent pool of women progressing into senior roles’…

Just over a third of respondents were in favour of job sharing or said they would support job share candidates; just over a third took the opposing position; and around a quarter said that they did not know…

The result of explaining the argument for job shares was to raise the number of people who would support them, although not by a huge amount, and it does not hugely matter how you sell job sharing MPs. In each case, the levels of support we found were higher with some explanation than with none – from the 37% with no explanation … to between 42% and 48% when some justificatory material was presented – and in each case the percentage now saying that they would vote for a job share team out-numbered those who would not. There still remained around a third of so of the public who said that they would not support a job share candidate even when the justification for doing so was provided, and at least a fifth who remained undecided.

My own view? I’m a democrat and so I think the public should get to decide. If people want to put themselves forward on a job-share basis, then let them – and let the public decide.

You can read the other posts in the What do the academics say? series here.

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