Where candidates live matters to voters, and they show it in their voting

A bit dated now, but still relevant: Showcasing our research at the Democratic Audit:
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That voters prefer to elect local candidates is a long-held assumption of British politics. Professor Jocelyn Evans’ research has sought to test that assumption. He found that the geographical distance between candidates’ homes and the constituency had a measurable impact on voting behaviour. In this post he shares his findings and argues that voters should have access to more information about the ‘localness’ of those seeking to represent them …

Read the full post here: Where candidates live matters to voters, and they show it in their voting

Lord Salisbury on House of Cards?

Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

MP, Peer, Secretary of State for India, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, thrice Prime Minister of Britain, architect of the Empire and arch-Conservative. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury and colloquially known as Lord Salisbury was not exactly a fan of mass democracy. This is from one of his essays in the Quarterly Review, quoted in David Marquand’s history of Britain in the 20th century. A lovely thing, these dead tree books.

English Voters Prefer Local Candidates, Ceteris Paribus

In first-past-the-post systems, voters should prefer local candidates for all sorts of reasons. From a rational choice perspective, you could argue that local candidates should, on average, more similar to their constituency in socio-economic terms and therefore more likely to represent their interests. A more socio-psychological-minded explanation would refer to shared ideological traits, positive stereotypes and collective identities. Or you could argue that local candidates are simply better known and have more opportunities for canvassing. Either way, even your granny knew that local is better when it comes to politics.

Only that she could never prove this assertion, while we can. Almost two years after the event, Political Geographyhas accepted our paper on the effect of (driving) distance between English mainstream candidates and their voters in the 2010 General Election. Controlling for incumbency, socio-economic distance and pre-campaign feeling towards the major parties, we demonstrate that physical distance (derived from candidates’ addresses and the centroid of their prospective voters’ neighbourhood) has a small but politically relevant effect. And yes, this is a brilliant start to this week!

Update: I have moved the preprint to a separate page. You can access the PDF, replication data etc. by clicking on the links below.

    Arzheimer, Kai and Jocelyn Evans. “Geolocation and voting: candidate-voter distance effects on party choice in the 2010 General Election in England.” Political Geography 31.5 (2012): 301-310. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2012.04.006
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF] [HTML] [DATA]
    The effect of geographical distance between candidate and voter on vote likelihood in the UK is essentially untested. In systems where constituency representatives vie for local inhabitants’ support in elections, candidates living closer to a voter would be expected to have a greater probability of receiving that individual’s support, other things being equal. In this paper, we present a first test of this concept using constituency data (specifically, notice of poll address data) from the British General Election of 2010 and the British Election Survey, together with geographical data from Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail, to test the hypothesis that candidate distance matters in voters’ choice of candidate. Using a conditional logit model, we find that the distance between voter and candidates from the three main parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat) matters in English constituencies, even when controlling for strong predictors of vote-choice, such as party feeling and incumbency advantage.

    @Article{arzheimer-evans-2012,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai and Evans, Jocelyn},
    title = {Geolocation and voting: candidate-voter distance effects on party choice in the 2010 General Election in England},
    number = {5},
    volume = {31},
    abstract = {The effect of geographical distance between candidate and voter on vote likelihood in the UK is essentially untested. In systems where constituency representatives vie for local inhabitants' support in elections, candidates living closer to a voter would be expected to have a greater probability of receiving that individual's support, other things being equal. In this paper, we present a first test of this concept using constituency data (specifically, notice of poll address data) from the British General Election of 2010 and the British Election Survey, together with geographical data from Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail, to test the hypothesis that candidate distance matters in voters' choice of candidate. Using a conditional logit model, we find that the distance between voter and candidates from the three main parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat) matters in English constituencies, even when controlling for strong predictors of vote-choice, such as party feeling and incumbency advantage.},
    journal = {Political Geography},
    year = 2012,
    doi = {10.1016/j.polgeo.2012.04.006},
    pages = {301--310},
    keywords = {uk, gis},
    html = {http://www.kai-arzheimer.com/paper/geolocation-voting-candidate-voter-distance-effects-party-choice-2010-general-election-england},
    data = {http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/17940},
    url = {http://www.kai-arzheimer.com/arzheimer-evans-geolocation-vote-england.pdf}
    }

What’s the difference between BNP/UKIP voters?

Colleagues/friends Matt Goodwin and Jocelyn Evans have created quite a stir with their report on the attitudes of BNP and UKIP supporters/voters. Obviously, UKIP is not happy at all about being lumped together with what remains of Nick Griffin’s party. Being introduced as a ‘polite alternative’ to the BNP (albeit with a rhetorical question mark) does not help, either. Today, Matt responds to their critics over at the Guardian’s ever more popular Comment is free section.

Whether UKIP likes it or not, this is fascinating stuff (for us aficionados). That their respondents predominantly young, male, undereducated and deeply worried about Muslims/immigrants hardly comes as a surprise. But there are some real innovations in this paper.

  • First, the N is huge (you need yougov or a very solid skull to interview ~2000 right-wingers). The sheer number of interviews makes it possible to differentiate between members, identifiers, supporters, and voters, something that is not normally possible.
  • Second, comparing BNP and UKIP supporters on the basis of a large sample makes a lot of substantive sense, whether UKIP likes it or not.
  • Third, Goodwin/Evans cleverly included items tapping into attitudes towards politically motivated violence in their survey. This allows them to connect existing research on voters with the sparse literature on militant activists.

Is this Political Science gone mad? Tactical voting and the tabloids

Being a political scientist is not considered an exciting occupation by people who have a life, and  as party conversation topics go, electoral systems are pretty lousy. But with LibDem support somewhere in the high 20s (if the polls are to be believed), normal people start to wonder why 26% of the vote should give them 12% of the seats, while 28% of the vote for Labour would amount to just under 40% of the seats (you can fiddle with the numbers at the wonderful BBC’s election pages).

So it is perhaps unsurprising that the hitherto pretty arcane idea of tactical voting (voting against your favourite party to support them) is now making headlines in the tabloids: Enter the Mirror’s guide to tactical voting for Labour and LibDem supporters. The information looks valid and may well be part of Labours last-ditch strategy to save what might be saved.