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
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