Join us for the last Rhea Seminar of the academic year, with Ruth Candlish!
Accounting for the different motivational factors explaining the substantively different quality of political representation.
Ruth Gazsó Candlish is a visiting PhD student from Central European University in Vienna. Her doctoral research examines how disabled people are represented in different parliaments in the Westminster system and seeks to understand how the representative politics of disability is framed, what motivates representatives to represent disabled people, and how institutional design shapes representation of disability. Prior to academia, she spent almost a decade working on equality, inclusion and policy-making in the UK and Scottish parliaments, as well as local, regional assemblies, and was also a union officer representing people working in and around parliament. She is especially interested in representation in multi-level contexts, the intersection of disability and gender, the spatial design of political places, and how to design comparative qualitative comparative research into elected legislatures.
Why bother at all? What motivates bad representatives? And the good ones? Accounting for the different motivational factors explaining the substantively different quality of political representation
Exploring the connection between representatives and the quality of representation, this study is premised on the idea that not all representation is equal: some is better, some is worse. Dividing representation according to its quality points to the existence of substantively different types of representatives, and while ‘the good representative’ has been the focus of several studies, far less is known about the bad ones. By bringing together contemporary scholarship into the quality of representation and recent work outlining factors motivating representation, this research examines what explains qualitatively different types of representation in relation to disability: what motivates the ‘good’ representative? What induces politicians to engage in ‘bad’ representation of disabled people? To answer this, potential motivating factors were scored for each politician who asked a question about disability in three parliaments (New Zealand, Scotland and the UK) from 2010-2020 and compared to the quality of their representative interventions. Quality was assessed using a matrix popular in media studies into disabled representation outlined by Clogston (1990) and later Haller (1995). The findings suggest that representative quality depends on how representatives are connected to groups. Good forms of representation point to intrinsic motivations (e.g. linked fate, professional duty to represent); whereas bad representation is motivated by extrinsic factors (electoral incentives, party rewards etc.). This has theoretical implications for the link between descriptive and substantive representation, how disability intersects with other identities, as well as wider processes of accountability and advocacy. This study also maps out more novel factors explaining representation that have yet to be studied in detail, e.g. how family and social connections shape political representation.