Politicians Are People: Personal Characteristics and Policy Interact when Voters Evaluate Political Candidates

Rasmus Tue Pedersen , Jens Olav Dahlgaard, Manuele Citi

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


Voters may infer both personal traits and policy positions from the background characteristics of political candidates. Using a survey experiment, we investigate whether the influence of background characteristics vanish when explicit policy information is available to the voters. Specifically, we explore the degree to which voters use a candidate’s gender, family background, and current occupation to infer traits and policies of the candidate. We show that voters do infer both traits and policy positions from background characteristic, and we show that explicit policy information does moderate the relationship between background characteristics and candidate evaluations. However, this does not mean that the effects of candidate background characteristics disappear when policy information is available to voters. Instead, the provision of policy information can change the valence of personal candidate characteristics, turning otherwise disadvantageous background characteristics into an electoral advantage. These moderating effects of policy information may strongly affect the electoral fortunes of certain types of candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventThe 8th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association - Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
Duration: 21 Jun 201823 Jun 2018
Conference number: 8


ConferenceThe 8th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association
LocationSchloss Schönbrunn
Internet address


  • Candidate characteristics
  • Survey experiments
  • Voter behavior

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