Abstract: Despite important advances in the rights of disabled people over the past decades, they still face widespread stigma in our societies and tend to be perceived as weak, dependent, and incompetent. Previous research on voter support for women, ethnic minorities, and other candidates from marginalised groups demonstrates that voters use group stereotypes as heuristics when evaluating candidates and casting their votes. This study uses a survey experiment with a conjoint design conducted in Britain to examine whether voters ‘punish’ disabled candidates at the ballot box. Rather surprisingly, the findings show that, if anything, voters are more likely to vote for disabled candidates, as in the case of a wheelchair user. Neither being disabled nor having close contact with disabled people significantly affects voters’ likelihood of supporting disabled candidates. By contrast, more left-wing voters are more willing to vote for disabled candidates than right-wing voters. This is both because they value the perceived ability of these candidates to represent under-represented citizens and because disabled candidates are assumed to be more left-wing. The study contributes to our understanding of the role of disability in politics and yields important insights for disabled candidates and political parties worried about a backlash at the ballot box.
Bio: I'm a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Political Science at the School of Government & Public Policy, which I joined as a Chancellor's Fellow in 2017. Before moving to Glasgow, I was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen. I hold a DPhil from the University of Oxford (Nuffield College), an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a BA from Jacobs University Bremen. My research focuses on political representation, behaviour, and attitudes. I use quantitative methods, including survey data analysis and survey experiments, to study how well public policy reflects the preferences of citizens, what explains differences in representation between different social groups and countries, and how it affects individuals' attitudes towards the political system. I am currently working on several projects about the representation of disabled people in politics, including my ESRC New Investigator Project "How do voters perceive disabled politicians?". My research has been published in Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Political Behavior, European Political Science Review, Electoral Studies, and Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, amongst others. At Strathclyde, I am teaching Quantitative Methods at the postgraduate level.
For further information or for receiving the Zoom meeting details please contact Dr Luca Bernardi (Luca.Bernardi@liverpool.ac.uk)