There’s an election coming up and you should vote, but a healthy democracy demands more from its citizens than going to the voting booth. Ideally, we should all think before we vote, and politics relies on fewer people actually doing so: party activists play an important role in the electoral process, carrying out the unpaid work of distributing leaflets and mailings. door to door.
This activism is in decline. In the early 1950s, Conservative and Labor members made up around 4 million members, or almost one in 10 people. These days, it’s closer to one in 100 who are members of one of the UK’s three major parties.
That’s not good news for democracy, but it might be good news for your job prospects. A new study is conducting an experiment, the same type used to measure racial discrimination, to ask how recruiters react to candidates whose CV expresses their political activism. Not good. Politics enthusiasts are deemed less desirable to hire, less creative and more insensitive. Ouch. The damage to perception is greater when it comes to applying for jobs requiring more qualifications or for activists of a right-wing nationalist party.
This experience took place in Belgium, with its many political parties, but there was related research in America, which corresponds more closely to Britain with two major parties dominating politics. The study found that political resumes were less likely to lead to an interview, but only when they didn’t match that region’s majority partisan preferences. You don’t want to be a Democrat running in the reddest parts of Texas.
Who should we worry about? Not the activists, who should be knocking on doors again this year, but maybe leave that aside when applying for a job next time. Hiding one’s political past is more difficult for another group currently refreshing their CV: future ex-MPs.