Department of Political Science


DCPS or Sidwell Friends? How Politician Schooling Choices Affect Voter Evaluations

8 November 2021

Voters often rely on informational shortcuts, such as the background traits of politicians, to decide which candidates to support at the ballot box. One such background trait is family composition, particularly parental status.


Research, however, has mostly overlooked whether the value-laden choices that politicians make regarding their families—like what neighborhoods they live in, where they worship, and what schools they send their children to—affect how constituents view them. We conduct a survey experiment in the U.S. that presents respondents with hypothetical biographies of politicians that randomly vary one of the most important decisions that politicians make regarding their families: whether to send them to public or private school. We find that: (1) voters are more inclined to vote for politicians with children in public school; and (2) this preference may be due to voters perceiving these politicians as both warmer and more committed to public services.

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Authors: Leslie K. FingerThomas Creigh GiftAndrew Miner