Joe Greenwood-Hau joined the School of Government & Public Policy in 2020 as a Research Fellow, working on the Capital, Privilege, and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project. We interviewed Joe in 2020 to find out more about his role...
Tell us a little bit about your career so far...
I didn’t really have a career plan when I finished my undergraduate degree, so I’ve shifted between different kinds of role a few times since then. I started by working in student campaigning and political engagement before deciding to do a MA in Political Behaviour at the University of Essex. I was interested in how and why people get involved in politics, but I had no clear idea what I would do after I finished so I was very lucky that the opportunity arose to do a funded PhD on the factors related to political participation. I thought that would lead to work in political engagement for a political party, institution, or a charity, but I worked with the polling company YouGov during my research and that led to a job as a data analyst. I thoroughly enjoyed working at YouGov, especially because my colleagues were excellent, but I missed teaching so decided to return to academia, first as a Teaching Fellow at LSE and then moving up here to Strathclyde. I’ve been privileged to work at all of those places and am looking forward to the next steps.
What is your role within the school?
I am a Research Fellow working on the Capital, Privilege, and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project. I’m just doing research at the moment, but I’ll be leading the master’s level module on political behaviour in the School of Government & Public Policy next year and can’t wait to get back to teaching.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career to date?
I was working for YouGov during both the 2015 and 2017 general elections, which had both highs and lows given the mixed performance of pollsters! The 2019 election night was also memorable but it’s a focus group that I ran in 2015 that particularly sticks in my memory. The participants were recruited from members of the public who’d gone to a Parliament Week event at Westminster, and they were a really good mix of politically engaged and disengaged people. They poured out their thoughts and feelings about politics, sometimes with great passion, and engaged really constructively with each other. It was so heartening to observe the discussion and exchange of ideas, and it reaffirmed my belief in the capacity of people to talk through political problems.
What inspired you to enter into Politics?
I was brought up by very politically engaged parents so one of my earliest memories was being taken on a demonstration in London that turned into one of the poll tax riots. That was when I was five, so politics has been part of my life since a very early age and it felt natural to study the subject at university. My research is driven by the idea that everyone should have an equal say in how we tackle the problems facing us locally, nationally, and globally. If some people are less able to get involved in politics then it’s not only an injustice but also a major failing of democratic politics. So, I suppose I’m inspired by the idea that everyone should be able to contribute to the ideas and decisions that change the world.
What current trends do you see influencing your field?
There are both methodological and substantive trends. In the former case, the shift towards quantitative research continues apace and, within that, there is now a real focus on questions of causality. This means that there is lots of great research being done using experimental methods in surveys, laboratories and, most excitingly, out there in the real world. On the substantive side, lots of academics were caught off-guard by the electoral success of populism, which inspired a surge in work about what it is and what has driven its rise. More recently, of course, the focus has dramatically shifted towards coronavirus and public responses to it.
Tell us about any research you are currently involved in...
I am currently writing a book on how people’s income and wealth, social connections, and cultural tastes and pastimes are related to political participation in Britain, which will be one of the main outcomes of my time at Strathclyde. I’m also preparing the fieldwork for a project that looks at whether political candidates’ cultural pastimes affect how representative the public think they are in Britain, India, Poland, and Sweden, which I’m really excited about. Beyond my own projects, I’m working on a couple of papers with colleagues. One looks at how voting in Britain between 2010 and 2019 became more closely related to people’s ideological beliefs about things like globalization and immigration. The other looks at how people’s beliefs about the reasons for inequality are related to their appraisals of the political system. It’s really nice to be working on collaborative projects with great colleagues, and it keeps me much more motivated in my own projects too.
What initially attracted you to the University of Strathclyde?
One of the great things about the research funding that I was awarded is the opportunity to pick an institution to work at. I’d been to Strathclyde for a couple of conferences in previous years and had a really positive sense of the University. One of my former PhD advisors was based here and I’d met other Strathclyders at various events, so knew that they were great researchers and lovely people. After moving up to Scotland in the midst of the pandemic and not being able to come to campus, it’s so nice to finally be able to see my colleagues in person (not just on a screen) on a regular basis!
After studying a programme offered by the School of Government & Public Policy, what opportunities are there for graduates?
This is a difficult question to answer because studying courses related to government and public policy can lead to so many different things! Like me, you could consider careers in campaigning, polling, or academia. Beyond those, there are opportunities in the Civil Service, policy roles in the third sector or think tanks, and lots of jobs relating social research (be it in the private, public, or third sector). The analytical and critical skills that studying government and public policy builds equip you for a host of roles, and you could even consider going into politics…
Any special thanks or shout-outs you'd like to give to colleagues who have helped/supported you since joining Strathclyde?
Loads! For help with the funding application that enabled me to move to Strathclyde, many thanks to Linsey McKendry on the Research & Knowledge Exchange Team and to Tom Scotto, who was Head of School of Government & Public Policy (but has now, alas, moved down the road to the University of Glasgow). Thanks also to Donna Dickson and Christina Crawley on the HR side for all their help with contract stuff, and to Stephen Clarke (School Manager in Government & Public Policy) for fielding all my technical questions both before and since I arrived. Then there's Zac Greene, who is due thanks for immediately making me feel welcome by inviting me to present at the School's colloquium (where I received very helpful feedback). Many thanks as well to Heinz Brandenburg for reviewing and commenting on my funding application, and for acting as my mentor here at Strathclyde (and thus a steady source of helpful comments and feedback). And finally, special thanks to Stefanie Reher, who helped not only with comments and feedback on my funding application (and other work) but also with advice on moving up to Scotland and settling in at Strathclyde. I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome by everyone.
If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I think Jim Naughtie's current role as special correspondent for the BBC seems very rewarding. He goes wherever there's something important happening (e.g. recently, the U.S. elections) then travels around and produces a series of dispatches to paint a more detailed picture of the context and events. I think slower, more considered forms of journalism are important, and I imagine it's really exciting to engage with major political events up close, as well as to meet people involved with and affected by them.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Well, we've just moved up from London so sorting out the new flat has taken a lot of time and energy! The World Series has also been keeping me busy recently; it's just finished so I'm looking forward to reading some non-baseball news. More generally, I'm a big fan of comedy (currently watching The Office (U.S.) and am planning to work through Yes Minister after that, plus John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme is superb) and films (top recent pick: The Forty-Year-Old Version), have been re-reading Walter Mosley's Socrates Fortlow series (which is still great), and have thoroughly enjoyed keeping up with my cycling and running (especially as a way to get out of the flat during the pandemic).
What is your guilty pleasure?
Film: The Mask. Track: Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon. Food: Doritos Dippers (other brands of nachos are available).
In one word, describe what Strathclyde means to you.
Joe tweets @niceonecombo and you can see some of his recent research here:
Joe Greenwood and Joe Twyman, 'Exploring Authoritarian Populism in Britain', in Ivor Crewe and David Sanders (ed), Authoritarian Populism and Liberal Democracy (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillian, 2020).
Joe Greenwood, 'Researching Political Participation Using Survey Data', SAGE Research Methods Cases (London, SAGE, 2019).