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

Joe Greenwood-Hau (2023)

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

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

Cultural Capital and Political Participation in Britain

Joe Greenwood-Hau (2022)

Under revision following peer review. Submission planned in August 2023. Previously submitted version.

Abstract: Existing rational choice, psychological, and sociological accounts of political participation have rarely investigated the importance of cultural capital beyond education. Yet Pierre Bourdieu’s work suggests that it should be related to political activity alongside its economic and social counterparts. Original survey data including detailed measures of all three forms of capital, and multiple types of participation allows us to thoroughly investigate this proposition in Britain. The results show a positive relationship between certain types of ‘legitimate’ cultural capital, such as attendance at the opera and exhibitions, and some forms of non-electoral participation, such as individual, contacting, and collective political activities. They also show a negative relationship between popular cultural capital, such as eating out and shopping for pleasure, and those same forms of participation. The findings offer a fuller account of the resources that relate to political participation and show that, in some cases, it can be considered a culturally distinguished activity.

The System Works Fine: The Positive Relationship Between Emphasis on Individual Explanations for Inequality and External Political Efficacy

Joe Greenwood-Hau (2021).

Frontiers in Political Science online. DOI (open access): 10.3389/fpos.2021.643165. [Appendices (PDF)]

Abstract: This article addresses the largely overlooked question of whether explanations for inequality are related to appraisals of the political system. It posits a positive relationship between individual explanations for inequality and three indicators of appraisals of the political system: satisfaction with democracy, political trust, and external political efficacy. Individual explanations for inequality are a form of system justifying belief and constitute part of a wider ideological view of the status quo social order as just and defensible. This positive view of the functioning of society may flow over into appraisals of the political system, imply a positive disposition towards high-status groups including politicians, and remove the motivation to blame the political system for ongoing inequality (which is instead seen in a positive, meritocratic light). The relationships between explanations for inequality and appraisals of the political system are tested for the first time in the United States, using 2002 ANES data, and in Great Britain, using data from a survey fielded in 2014. The results in the United States show few consistent or significant relationships between explanations for inequality and any of the appraisals of the political system. However, the results in Great Britain show consistent, robust, and statistically significant positive relationships between individual explanations for inequality and external political efficacy. The inconsistency in these results may stem from the differing temporal and national contexts of the surveys. It is also likely that the ranking measures of explanations for inequality in the GB data distinguished respondents for whom individual explanations are particularly important, who have a less negative appraisal of external political efficacy. However, more work is required to investigate the effects of question format, the impact of national and temporal context, and the causal direction of the relationship between explanations for inequality and appraisals of the political system.

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