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Exploring capital, perceptions and political activity in Britain and beyond


Capital, Perceived Descriptive Representativeness and Competence, and Voting in India, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom

Joe Greenwood-Hau (2023)

Working paper. Journal submission planned in June 2023. Pre-registration DOI (open access): 10.17605/OSF.IO/WFKPA

Abstract: Whether voters feel that politicians are like them is an important factor in vote choice and has implications for public views of the efficacy of the political system at large. There is often talk of a gap between voters and their representatives, in which the politicians are described as ‘not like us’ and ‘out of touch’ with the electorate. An important sub-literature has shown that social alienation on the basis of class can shape how people vote and whether they vote at all (Carnes and Lupu 2016, Vivyan et al. 2020, Heath 2015, 2018). However, the extant literature has overlooked a wider conception of the three forms of capital that are related to class and other factors: economic, social, and cultural (Bourdieu 1984). This paper addresses the possible role of these forms of capital in politics by testing their effects on voters’ perceptions of candidates. It deploys conjoint survey experiments fielded to representative samples in India, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to test whether candidates’ incomes, acquaintances, and cultural tastes affect how they are perceived by the public in diverse contexts. Specifically, it investigates perceptions of the descriptive representativeness and competence of candidates, and whether these mediate the relationship between capital and vote-worthiness. As such, the paper sheds light for the first time on whether stocks of economic, social, and cultural capital affect how candidates are perceived by the public.

The same fieldwork also underpins a future working paper (planned in December 2023), titled ‘Candidate Capital and Self-Perceived Status in India, Poland, Sweden, and the UK.’ Pre-registration DOI (open access): 10.17605/OSF.IO/NGD4E

Survey Variable: Religious Involvement

As Verba, Schlozman, and Brady showed thirty years ago, albeit in the context of the United States, religious institutions can act as important drivers of political participation. They provide social networks and prompt people to develop and use civic skills, both of which can prove useful when participating in politics. As such, the Privilege and…

Survey Variable: Newspaper Readership

The newspapers that people read were, in the past, often used by polling companies and others as a proxy for ideological views and party preferences. With the decline in (physical) newspaper readership and the rise of readily available indicators of ideology and party preferences, the variable has somewhat fallen out of favour. Nevertheless, it remains…

Survey Variable: Number of Children

In addition to asking about the number of children in their households, the survey also asked respondents how many children they have, whether at home or not. This question includes grown up children who have left home and, hence, has a notably different distribution, as we can see in Figure 1 (above, using weighted data).…

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