Places and preferences: A Longitudinal Analysis of Self-Selection and Contextual Effects

Patrick Sturgis, University of Southampton

Aina Gallego

Co Authors
Franz Buscha, Patrick Sturgis, Daniel Oberski

assimilation, self-selection, political prefernces

Contextual theories of political behavior assert that the contexts in which people live influence their political beliefs and vote choices. Most studies of contextual effects rely on cross-sectional data, but it has long been recognized that this approach does not provide convincing evidence of contextual effects because it fails to adequately distinguish contextual influence from self-selection of individuals into areas. This paper advances research into this longstanding controversy using longitudinal survey data over an 18-year period in England. We track individual-level left-right position and party identification before and after residential moves across areas with different aggregate-level political orientations. We find evidence of both self-selection and assimilation of new entrants to the majority political orientation over time. However, these conclusions are contingent on the type of area an individual moves to. Overall, contextual effects are found to be weak and dominated by the larger effect of non-random selection into areas.