We recently caught up with Joe Greenwood-Hau who has just joined the School of Government & Public Policy as a Research Fellow working on the Capital, Privilege, and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project. We found out more about Joe's academic experience and how Politics came into his life at an early age...
Tell us a little bit about your career so far...
I studied history and politics during my undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, where I got involved in campaigning on the arms trade, economic justice, and climate change. From there I went into jobs working on student campaigning and political engagement, which sparked my interest in who gets involved in political campaigning and why. It’s a big question so I decided to apply to study an MA in Political Behaviour at the University of Essex, and the opportunity to do a PhD arose from that. Despite having come fresh to statistics in my masters, my thesis used survey data to look at the relationships between structural privilege, perceived privilege, and political participation in the UK. During my PhD, I spent a couple of stints working on the political and social research team at YouGov, which led to a permanent role at the company after finishing my thesis. But I had caught the academic bug by then so, despite having to say goodbye to some excellent colleagues, I moved on to a teaching fellowship at LSE. I absolutely love teaching but wanted to focus more on my research for a few years, so I applied for a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, which I am incredibly privileged to have been awarded.
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. So, I’m just researching at the moment but I look forward to getting back to teaching before too long.
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 actually a focus group that I ran in 2015 that sticks in my memory. The participants were recruited from members of the public who’d come 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 constructively with each other. It was so heartening to observe the discussion and exchange of ideas, and 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 the 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...
The project that I’m currently working on has three strands. First, I’m analyzing survey, interview, and focus group data to investigate people’s stocks of economic, social, and cultural capital, their perceptions of privilege, and their political activities in pre-Brexit Britain. After that, I’ll be fielding online survey experiments in the UK, Sweden, Poland, and India to test the impact of the capital held by politicians on their perceived representativeness. Finally, once the first two strands are completed, I will collaborate with political engagement organizations to identify solutions to participatory barriers in Britain. Together, I hope that these strands will represent the first in-depth consideration of how structural and perceived privilege relate to politics in the UK and beyond, and new ideas for how we might deal with inequalities in political participation.
What initially attracted you to the University of Strathclyde?
One of the great things about the 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 over the last few 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 and lovely people. I’d even interviewed for a job here a couple of years ago but just missed out! So, there wasn’t really a question about which institution I wanted to come to.
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!
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).