Leadership Experiences Within Civil Organizations and Candidacy in Public Elections: Causal Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Approach
Standing as a candidate in public elections has been characterized as the ultimate act of political participation. We test the hypothesis that acquiring office within civil organizations increases the probability of becoming a candidate in public elections. In order to take self-selection problems into account, we provide quasi-experimental evidence using election discontinuities, in which we compare the likelihood of being nominated for public office between closely ranked winners and losers in Swedish student union (SU) elections. Our original data cover 5,000 SU candidates and register data on their candidacies in public elections (1991–2010). The analysis provides support to the hypothesis: Students elected to SU councils were about 34 percent (6 percentage points) more likely to become a candidate in a public election than SU council candidates who were not elected. The causal impact is fairly stable over time. The analysis makes important contributions to two interrelated bodies of literature: First, it provides political recruitment literature with causal evidence that acquiring leadership experiences at arenas outside of representative democratic institutions facilitate entry into election processes. Second, it provides strong evidence to an increasingly contested issue within political participation research by showing that certain organizational activities increase individuals’ political involvement.
KeywordsCandidate Political recruitment Political participation Voluntary associations Regression discontinuity Self-selection Elections Civil organizations
This article is based on work supported by the Institute for Evaluation of Labor Market and Education Policy (IFAU) [Grant No. 148/09]. The authors thank Michelle Taylor-Robinson, Laura Stoker, Karl-Oskar Lindgren, Alex Solis, Gunnar Myrberg, Henrik Oskarson, Markus Steinbrecher, Björn Öckert, Erik Amnå, Patrik Öhberg, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. A special thanks to Cecilia Josefsson and Neshat Alizadeh for excellent research assistance, and to the student unions for kindly giving us access to their archives. Any remaining errors are the responsibility of the authors. The authors are equal contributors to this article: names are listed in alphabetical order.
- Armingeon, K. (2007). Political participation and associational involvement. In J. W. van Deth, J. R. Montero, & A. Westholm (Eds.), Citizenship and involvement in European democracies: A comparative analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Finlay, A., Wray-Lake, L., & Flanagan, C. (2010). Civic engagement during the transition to adulthood: Developmental opportunities and social policies at a critical juncture. In L. R. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, & C. A. Flanagan (Eds.), Handbook of research on civic engagement in youth. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Fiva, J. H., Folke, O., & Sorensen, R. J. (2014). The power of parties: Evidence from close municipal elections in Norway. Manuscript.Google Scholar
- Fowler, L. L. (1993). Candidates, congress, and the american democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
- Gallagher, M., & Marsh, M. (1988). Candidate selection in comparative perspective. The secret garden of politics. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Golden, M., & Picci, L. (2015). Incumbency effects under proportional representation: Leaders and backbenchers in the postwar Italian chamber of deputies. Legislative Studies Quarterly (forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Kotakorpi, K., Poutvaara, P., & Terviö, M. (2013). Returns to office in national and local politics. CESifo Working Paper no. 4542, Center for Economic Studies & Ifo Institute, Munich, Germany.Google Scholar
- Lasswell, H. D. (1948). Power and personality. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Lawless, J. L. (2012). Becoming a candidate: Political ambition and the decision to run for office. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Lindgren, K.-O., Oskarsson, S., & Dawes, C. T. (2014). Can political inequalities be educated away? Evidence from a Swedish school reform. Working Paper 2012:29, Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy, Uppsala, Sweden.Google Scholar
- Lundquist, H. (2007, December 12. http://www.ergo.nu/nyheter/20071210-ett-ar-i-karledningen-ger-karriaren-en-skjuts. Accessed November 16, 2013). Ett år i kårledningen ger karriären en skjuts. Ergo.
- Lundqvist, H. (2013). Is it worth it? On the returns to holding political office. IEB Working Paper N. 2013/014Google Scholar
- Moncrief, G. F., Squire, P., & Jewell, M. E. (2001). Who runs for the legislature?. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Norris, P., & Lovenduski, J. (1995). Political recruitment. Gender, race and class in British Parliament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Schlesinger, J. (1966). Ambition and politics. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co.Google Scholar
- Siavelis, P., & Morgenstern, S. (2008). Pathways to power. Political recruitment and candidate selection in Latin America. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
- van Ingen, E., & van der Meer, T. (2015). Schools or pools of democracy? A longitudinal test of the relation between civic participation and political socialization. Political Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s11109-015-9307-7.
- Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Warren, M. E. (2001). Associations and democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar