Challenges Reported by Candidates for Local Office

Newly published: Peter Levine & David Abromowitz, “Challenges Reported by Candidates for Local Office,” State and Local Government Review (2022). Available behind a paywall: or in page proofs as open access here.


A survey of 711 candidates for local offices in the United States, conducted in December 2021, reveals that many were concerned before they began their campaigns about the impact of politics on their work and family, the time demands of campaigning, their ability to raise funds, and their knowledge of the process, among other obstacles. Many candidates who had anticipated each concern found it less onerous than they had expected. Those who were parents, those with full-time jobs, and those who had experienced poverty as children were especially likely to have difficulty meeting work and family obligations while campaigning. Being liberal, being young, having less education, and experiencing poverty in childhood were all associated with concerns about being qualified to run. The study offers additional details about which backgrounds and experiences are associated with specific challenges in local campaigns. The results may inform efforts to recruit and support underrepresented candidates.

Table 6 (“Predictors of Concerns”) summarizes some key findings. It is based on statistical models that account for other factors.

Our paper is an example of Civically Engaged Research (CER) in political science: “an approach to inquiry that involves political scientists collaborating in a mutually beneficial way with people and groups beyond the academy to co-produce, share, and apply knowledge related to power or politics, contributing to self-governance.”* David Abromowitz is a leader of the the New Power Project, which is “uniquely focused on recruiting and empowering values-driven individuals who have grown up in marginalized or underserved communities” to run for office. David approached me with the idea of conducting a survey of current candidates, drawing the sample from BallotReady. We designed the survey instrument together. I crunched the numbers, addressing David’s queries as well as my own. Our article illustrates that civically or community-engaged research is not always qualitative or hands-on. Although we statistically analyzed an anonymous survey, our collaboration was essential, and the results should help the New Power Project while contributing to the scholarly literature.

*Rasmussen, A., Levine, P., Lieberman, R., Sinclair-Chapman, V., & Smith, R. (2021). Preface. PS: Political Science & Politics, 54(4), 707-710. doi:10.1017/S1049096521000755. See also: civically engaged research in political science; engaged theory and the construction of community; how to keep political science in touch with politicsmethods for engaged research.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.