Category Archives: What do the academics say?

Why the ideal candidate is a local GP (who preferably left school at 18)

There’s an interesting article in Political Studies journal by Rosie Campbell and Philip Cowley which attempts to find out ‘What Voters Want’. Published last year, it looks specifically what they want in terms of the characteristics of their candidates.

The core of the study consisted of six split-sample internet surveys. Each survey involved respondents reading two short profiles about hypothetical candidates, and then answering four questions about those candidates. Following Kira Sanbonmatsu, our research design included profiles of two candidates (Sanbonmatsu, 2002), whom we (initially) called John and George:


John Burns is 48 years old, and was born and brought up in your area, before going to university to study for a degree in physics. After university John trained as an accountant, and set up a company ten years ago; it now employs seven people. John has interests in the health service, the environment, and pensions, and is married with three children.

George Mountford is 45 years old; he lives in the constituency and studied business at university.He is a solicitor and runs a busy local practice. George is passionate about education, with two children in local schools and a wife who is a primary school teacher.

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What the academics say: 7-in-10 voters know the name of their MP – and 82% of Lib Dem MPs are local

Ballot boxWhat do MPs want from voters? Well, knowing the name of their man in Westminster would be a start. What do voters want from their MPs? To come from the area they represent is the single most important requirement – 80% want that, far more than wanting more female (50%) or more working class MPs (58%).

So both MPs and the public might be encouraged by the findings of two recent surveys.

Britain’s MPs are more local than you think (Demos)

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What the academics say: How the Lib Dems won the Coalition Agreement

clegg cameron rose garden‘The UK Coalition Agreement of 2010: Who Won?’ is a fascinating paper written by Thomas Quinn, Judith Bara and John Bartle. It was published in May 2011, but I only stumbled across it yesterday. Here’s what it aimed to set out:

a content analysis of to determine which party gained (or lost) most. ‘Gained’ and ‘lost’ here both have very specific meanings since they are based on comparisons of party positions as set out in their respective manifestos with the position of the new government set out in the agreement. In global terms we find that the agreement is nearer to the Liberal Democrats’ left-right position than the Conservatives’.

This is graphically illustrated by measure the two parties’ positions along a right-left scale:

coalition agreement 2010

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A longer read for the weekend: How important will incumbency be to the Lib Dems in 2015?

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLast year I wrote a piece, So, about that Lib Dem wipeout in 2015 then…, highlighting that – though the polls are grim for the Lib Dems – the assumption of many pundits that this will automatically translate into Lib Dem annihilation at the next election is flawed.

That brief analysis was based on looking at the lists of Lib Dem-held seats that Labour and the Tories are targeting. Now Craig Johnson from Newcastle University has taken a more …

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Democratic Audit on the “scandal” of the poor value taxpayers get for the £800m spent on elections in the UK

Ballot paperDemocratic Audit, an independent research organisation based at the London School of Economics, this week published a report, Engaging young voters with enhanced election information. The title may not be the most exciting ever, but the report itself is worth a read. (You can download it here.)

The executive summary from the report’s authors, Patrick Dunleavy and Richard Berry, sets out the current problem as they see it:

Current arrangements in the UK only give very poor, fragmented and old-fashioned feedback to voters about what effect their participation has had, and what election outcomes were.

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What do the academics say? Being local works

Academic cap and gown - Some rights reserved by NoDivisionWelcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – it’s the effect of being local on a candidate’s election chances, courtesy of an article in Political Geography :

In this paper, we 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

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What do the academics say? The incumbency effect for MPs

Academics in caps and gowns - Some rights reserved by herkieWelcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the incumbency benefit sitting MPs can build up, based on an analysis of the 1983-2010 general elections:

This note adapts two models commonly used to estimate the incumbency advantage that US members of Congress enjoy – the ‘slurge’ and the Gelman-King Index – to provide comparable estimates for UK MPs. The results show that

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