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Do humble beginnings help? How politician class roots shape voter evaluations.

Vivyan, Nick and Wagner, Markus and Glinitzer, Konstantin and Moritz-Eberl, Jakob (2020) 'Do humble beginnings help? How politician class roots shape voter evaluations.', Electoral studies., 63 . p. 102093.


Motivated partly by descriptive representation concerns, political scientists have become increasingly interested in voters’ preferences over the social class of their representatives. Whereas existing research focuses mainly on preferences concerning politicians’ own immediate class markers, we argue that voters may also care about politician class roots - the social class of the household in which a politician grew up. Drawing on conjoint experiments fielded in Austria, Germany, and Britain, we show that in the latter two cases voters do care about class roots, displaying an average preference for politicians with more humble class roots. In follow-up experiments testing different explanations for this preference we find little evidence that voters treat humble roots as a signal of social mobility and therefore politician quality. Rather, preferences over class roots appear to be driven by class affinity biases. Our findings have implications for debates concerning the descriptive underrepresentation of the working classes.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:© 2020 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:11 October 2019
Date deposited:22 October 2019
Date of first online publication:01 November 2019
Date first made open access:01 May 2021

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