Political Primacy and MSW Students' Interest in Running for Office

What Difference Does it Make?

  • Patrick Meehan University of Michigan
Keywords: Social work education, elected office, political primacy, political participation


Although social workers are understood to participate in politics more than the general public, little is known about their interest in running for office. To understand how individuals in “helping” professions like social work may think about running for office, this study introduces the concept of political primacy. Political primacy refers to the value individuals assign to elected office’s ability to make a difference, relative to alternative ways of making a difference. Using data from the Michigan Law & Social Work Study, representing a sample of 545 MSW and 200 JD students across Michigan, political primacy was shown to significantly predict MSW students’ interest in running for office at the local level. Consequently, the more MSW students see elected office as a more effective way of making a difference than alternatives, the more interested they will be in running for office. Implications for social work education are discussed, including the socialization of social work students into politics.


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