Do disabled candidates represent disabled citizens?

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Whether citizens are better represented by politicians 'like them' has been the subject of much debate and analysis. Yet, this scholarship has largely ignored the 1 in 5 people who are disabled and experience economic, social and political marginalization. Linking voter and candidate data from the 2015 British general election, this study examines whether disabled citizens are better represented by disabled elites. It analyses the effects of disability on both preferences and preference congruence. The findings reveal that disabled citizens and candidates are more supportive of healthcare and general public spending, even within parties. At the same time, the views of disabled citizens are rarely more congruent with the positions of disabled candidates than those of non-disabled candidates, except on healthcare spending. The study provides ground-breaking insights into the role of disability in policy preferences and political representation while also highlighting broader implications of how the descriptive–substantive representation link is analysed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Early online date10 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Feb 2021


  • policy representation
  • preference congruence
  • disability
  • candidate survey
  • United Kingdom


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