Someone like me? Disability identity and representation perceptions

Citizens from minoritized groups, including women and people of colour, tend to feel better represented by politicians who share their identity, often translating into electoral support. Is this also the case for disabled people, one of the largest yet often ignored minority groups in our societies? In-group affinity in representation can be driven by assumptions about shared preferences or by affective orientations and group consciousness. Analyses of data from a survey experiment with 6,000 respondents in the UK and US shows that disabled people – including those who do not identify with the disability community – feel better represented by disabled candidates. These effects are to some degree due to assumed shared policy preferences, but symbolic factors also seem to matter. Meanwhile, non-disabled people feel better represented by non-disabled candidates, even when perceived shared preferences are accounted for. The findings suggest that disability is a politically relevant identity to all citizens, even in contexts where it is not strongly politicized. This bolsters calls for more disabled people in politics and might help explain the disability gaps in political trust and perceived responsiveness.