Candidate localness and voter choice in the 2015 General Election in England
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The degree of ‘localness’ of candidates, including their residential location, has long been theorised to influence voters at election time. Individual-level tests of distance effects in the 2010 British general elections demonstrated that, controlling for standard explanations of vote, the distance from a voter’s home to that of the candidate was negatively associated with the likelihood of voting for that candidate. To test this theory in a sub-national electoral context more likely to produce distance effects than a national election, this paper builds upon previous analysis by using the 2013 English County Council elections. It improves upon the previous analysis in a number of ways, analysing an election where ‘localness’ effects would be expected to be stronger; combining a bespoke YouGov survey of voters with more precise locational data; including United Kingdom Independent Party candidates in its specification; and considering more closely how voters construe distance. It finds that distance does matter, not only as a linear measure but also in terms of candidates living in the same or different electoral division to voters. Finally, the paper simulates the effect of distance on candidate performances in this type of election to measure its real-world strength.