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Do Voters Dislike Working-Class Candidates? Voter Biases and the Descriptive Underrepresentation of the Working Class

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2016

Duke University
Vanderbilt University
Nicholas Carnes is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University (
Noam Lupu is Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University (


In most democracies, lawmakers tend to be vastly better off than the citizens who elect them. Is that because voters prefer more affluent politicians over leaders from working-class backgrounds? In this article, we report the results of candidate choice experiments embedded in surveys in Britain, the United States, and Argentina. Using conjoint designs, we asked voters in these different contexts to choose between two hypothetical candidates, randomly varying several of the candidates’ personal characteristics, including whether they had worked in blue-collar or white-collar jobs. Contrary to the idea that voters prefer affluent politicians, the voters in our experiments viewed hypothetical candidates from the working class as equally qualified, more relatable, and just as likely to get their votes. Voters do not seem to be behind the shortage of working-class politicians. To the contrary, British, American, and Argentine voters seem perfectly willing to cast their ballots for working-class candidates.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016 

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