Survey Variable: Official Positions

As Figure 1 (above) shows, holding each of the official positions that the survey asked about is a rarity.[1] The most popular option is being a Neighbourhood Watch member (Panel E) but even that position is held by only 4.8% of respondents, with a further 10.4% indicating that they have been a member in the past. The least popular option is being a magistrate (Panel G), with a mere 1.9% indicating that they currently hold (1.6%) such a position or have done so in the past (0.3%). However, these individual figures do not tell us whether such positions are all held by a small number of people or spread across a larger number of individuals. As such, the variables relating to each position are combined into a single variable indicating how many positions are held by each respondent. This is graphed in Figure 2, using weighted data, which shows that more than a quarter of respondents (26.4%) either hold or have held at least one of the official positions asked about. Only a very small percentage (2.5%) has held three or more positions, indicating that the burden of filling them is distributed across a sizeable minority of the population. Despite this small percentage, it is worth noting that it is probably an overstatement of the figure in the population. This is because, as noted elsewhere, surveys (especially drawn from panels of volunteer respondents) tend to over-sample politically active people. Further, there is an important caveat relating specifically to these variables: the questions relating to being a school governor or a member of a parent-teacher association (PTA) were only asked to respondents who currently have children in their homes. This means that there are likely to be some respondents who have children that have left home who were not given the opportunity to indicate that they held one of those positions in the past.

Figure 2. See also Table A2.

The survey also asked those who have never held one of the official positions whether they would consider doing so in future.[2] Their answers are graphed in Figure 3, using weighted data, which shows that more than half (52%) of all respondents would probably or definitely consider holding such positions. After taking into account those who already hold or have held such positions (26.4%), there are slightly more than a fifth of respondents (21.6%) who have not held an official position but would probably or definitely consider doing do. This indicates that more than half of those who are willing to take up such positions have already done so. Full details of all of the variables considered here are provided below Figure 3.

Figure 3. See also Table A3.
Variable namespp_op_councillor, pp_op_schgov,
pp_op_pta, pp_op_tra,
pp_op_neighwatch, pp_op_vsc,
pp_op_magistrate
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories3
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namepp_op_count
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories8
New and old categoriesCategories 1 (‘Currently’) and 2
(‘In the past’) on each of the
original variables were counted
as 1 (i.e. indicating that the
position has been held at some
point), with category 3 (‘Never’)
counted as zero. As such, 0 on
the new variable indicates that
no position has ever been held
whilst 7 indicates that all 7
positions have been held at
some point.
Details of the original and recoded official position variables.
Variable namepp_considop
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories5
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namepp_considop_ir
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories5
New and old categories‘Definitely’ (1) = ‘Definitely
would consider’ (3)

‘Probably’ (2) = ‘Probably
would consider’ (2)

‘Probably not’ (3) = ‘Probably
would not consider’ (1)

‘Definitely not’ (4) = ‘Definitely
would not consider’ (0)

‘Not asked’ (9) = ‘Held one
or more positions’ (4)
Details of original and recoded consideration of official positions variables.

[1] The weighted and unweighted numbers behind Figure 1 can be found in Table A1. Note: TRA  = Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

[2] The variable has been recoded so that those who would definitely not consider holding official positions have a value of 0, running through to those who have held such a position with a value of 4. This is why the variable is labelled ‘Inverse Recode’. The numbers in each category within the original variable can be found in Table A4.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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