Political Candidates in British Elections

Room: 
Ferrier Hall
Time Slot: 
Monday 26th March 09:30 - 11:00
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Stuart Fox (Cardiff University)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Peter Allen (University of Bath)
  • Dr David Cutts (University of Bath)
  • Dr Sofia Collignon Delmar (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Dr Wolfgang Rudig (University of Strathclyde)
  • Dr Alia Middleton (University of Surrey)

Studies of political candidates and their impact on elections are becoming more common, driven partly by advances in data collection technology, and partly as a result of the recognition of the significance of candidates’ characteristics and individual campaigns for understanding voter choices. This panel contributes to this growing field with three papers exploring how different characteristics shape the propensity of people to seek office in the first place, and the efforts of those candidates to promote certain characteristics in their campaigns.

Our first and second papers essentially address the question of who actually wants to be a political candidate in the first place? Peter Allen and David Cutts begin with their research on individual political ambition, and look at the effects of demographic characteristics, personality, socialisation, geography, education and social class on individuals’ desire to seek office. Their results show that the motivation to seek office is concentrated amongst those already over-represented in political institutions. Their conclusions focus on the implications of this finding for anti-political sentiment in Britain, and consider how political parties may rectify this imbalance. Sofia Collignon and Wolfgang Rudig follow up this theme, and focus on the differences between those standing in local elections and general elections. They show  important differences between the political trajectories and priorities of candidates standing in different kinds of election, and highlight the need to pay greater attention to the characteristics of both candidates and elections in understanding how and why people choose to seek political office.

In our final paper, Alia Middleton examines the campaign strategies used by political candidates in their efforts to emphasise their ‘local credentials’. Drawing on data from the Election Leaflets Archive, she looks at how candidates promote their attachment to the local community and institutions, and how they try to use this to undermine and attack their political opponents. Her research emphasises the importance of candidates’ own characteristics in the shaping of their campaigns, and highlights the potential for such characteristics to influence election results.