Cultural Scenes and Political Attitudes

Diana MillerDan SilverCongratulations to Doctoral Candidate Diana Miller and Professor Dan Silver who recently published an article on the importance of spatial cultural scenes for understanding political attitudes. This research benefited from funding from SSHRC. The full article can be accessed here and I include the citation and abstract below.

Diana L. Miller and Daniel Silver (2016) Cultural Scenes and Contextual Effects on Political Attitudes. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology: 2 (3-4): 241-266 DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2016.1144480

Spatial variation in voting is well documented, but substantively meaningful explanations of how places shape individuals’ politics are lacking. This paper suggests that local cultural ‘scenes’ exert a contextual effect – a spatial effect not driven by demographic differences between individuals in different places – on political attitudes and sensibilities. We measure the local ‘scene’ of Canadian electoral districts (EDs) through an original, national database of amenities, which we code qualitatively to describe those amenities’ cultural attributes. We combine scenes measures with demographic Census data on each constituency, and individual-level data from a 2011 federal election exit poll. Using hierarchical linear models, we find that individuals’ political sensibilities are correlated with the ED-level cultural context in which they reside, controlling for demographic factors at both levels. We find that EDs with self-expressive scenes are correlated with left-leaning political attitudes, while EDs with locally oriented scenes are correlated with right-leaning political attitudes. We hypothesize that the mechanism underlying these findings is that individuals’ local cultural context subtly shapes their political sensibilities.