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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Nick Vivyan

Nick Vivyan, Markus Wagner, Konstantin Glinitzer & Jakob Moritz-Eberl (2020). Do Humble Beginnings Help? How Politician Class Roots Shape Voter Evaluations. Electoral Studies 53: 102093.

Author(s) from Durham


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.