Voter Perceptions of Disabled Candidates in Britain and the US, 2020-2021

Reher, Stefanie (2024). Voter Perceptions of Disabled Candidates in Britain and the US, 2020-2021. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-856843

This project asks how voters perceive disabled election candidates and whether these perceptions influence their vote choice. While almost one in five people in the UK have a disability, the numbers are much lower among politicians, with currently only five MPs known to be disabled. This under-representation might hamper the representation of the interests of disabled citizens and dampen their political engagement. It also indicates unequal access to political office. While the underlying reasons are manifold, potential prejudices among voters not only pose an electoral hurdle but might also prevent disabled candidates from running and parties from nominating them. Understanding how voters perceive and evaluate disabled candidates is thus essential to addressing the barriers to elected office that disabled people face. This project collects novel survey data from the UK and other countries in order to investigate how citizens perceive disabled candidates in terms of their character traits, issue priorities and competence, and representative links. It uses survey experiments with to test how citizens react to disabled candidates while minimising social desirability bias and demand effects.

Data description (abstract)

Much is known about the effects of candidate characteristics, such as gender, age, and ethnicity, on voter perceptions and support. Meanwhile, very little research on citizens' attitudes towards and stereotypes about disabled candidates and politicians has been conducted. This dataset provides the opportunity to explore how citizens perceive disabled candidates. The data comes from a survey conducted in Britain and the US in 2020 and 2021 among representative samples of the populations of approx. 3,000 respondents in each country. The surveys include two survey experiments with conjoint designs, where respondents are presented with vignettes describing two fictional candidates competing for election. A range of candidate attributes are randomly varied, including whether candidates are blind, Deaf, wheelchair users, or not described as disabled. The design allows identifying the effects of disability and other candidate attributes on respondents' perceptions of the candidates' traits, issue priorities, issue competence, and representative links. The surveys also include a range of measures of respondents' socio-demographic characteristics, in particular their experience with disability, and political attitudes.

Data creators:
Creator Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Reher Stefanie University of Strathclyde
Sponsors: ESRC, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
Grant reference: ES/S015469/1
Topic classification: Politics
Social stratification and groupings
Project title: How do voters perceive disabled candidates?
Grant holders: Stefanie Reher
Project dates:
1 December 201930 November 2023
Date published: 22 Mar 2024 10:39
Last modified: 22 Mar 2024 10:39

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