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The European Union and Beyond

How Historical Careers and Age Affect Ideological and Policy Congruence: Evidence from the Comparative Candidate Study

Political Parties
Comparative Perspective
Iakovos Makropoulos
University of Strathclyde
Iakovos Makropoulos
University of Strathclyde

Voters in many advanced democracies feel a large gap between the public’s wishes and electoral candidates’ policy statements. So far scholars show that individual-level traits of politicians such as gender, age, residence, and class determine the distance between candidates and voters. But less is known about how the politicians’ past professional and career experiences affect the perceived congruence between parties and voters. Candidates that have only worked in the political arena, have differing priorities and allegiances to the parties they participate in than candidates that moved into politics after working in professional careers with distinct challenges and policy needs. Are careerists more congruent with the party line than with voters? Does this remain constant throughout their political career or depend on how much politicians have been moved on the party’s hierarchy? Are older politicians with historical careers and longer experience more congruent with voters? This paper links the differences in self-reported priorities between candidates and voters by analysing the ideological and policy congruence using cross-national evidence of candidates’ self-reported goals from the Comparative Candidate Study and Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. Preliminary results show that careerists candidates concerning for career advancement invest in the party brand producing lower levels of congruence with their parties’ voters, but that this relationship is moderated by the candidate’s age. Older candidates that have already progressed to higher positions within the party the more likely is to follow their party’s line. From a candidate perspective, this study emphasizes the need to account for the impact of career ambitions and age to predict congruence between candidates and voters.
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