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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Professor Nick Vivyan

Campbell, Rosie, Cowley, Philip, Vivyan, Nick & Wagner, Markus (2019). Why friends and neighbors? Explaining the electoral appeal of local roots. Journal of Politics 81(3): 937-951.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Why do politicians with strong local roots receive more electoral support? The mechanisms underlying this well-documented “friends and neighbors” effect remain largely untested. Drawing on two population-based survey experiments fielded in Britain, we provide the first experimental test of a commonly posited cue-based explanation, which argues that voters use politicians’ local roots (descriptive localism) to make inferences about politicians’ likely actions in office (behavioral localism). Consistent with the cue-based account, we find that a politician’s local roots are less predictive of voter evaluations when voters have access to explicit information about aspects of the politician’s actual behavioral localism. However, we also find that voters’ positive reaction to local roots is only partially explained by a cue-based account in which voters care about the aspects of behavioral localism tested in this article. Our findings inform a normative debate concerning the implications of friends-and-neighbors voting for democratic representation and accountability.