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Electoral Administration and the Problem of Poll Worker Recruitment: Who Volunteers, and Why?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alistair Clark



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Elections depend on the thousands of people who give up their time to administer this crucial public service. They staff polling stations and ensure votes are issued, cast and counted. Poll workers are effectively ‘stipended volunteers’, receiving some limited financial compensation, but working for the broader public good. It is important to understand why people choose to give up their time to provide this fundamental public service to their fellow citizens. Using original data from a poll worker survey conducted in the 2015 British general election, this article investigates the motivations and incentives for poll workers volunteering to administer major elections in an important advanced democracy. Exploratory expectations are set out about the motivations of poll workers, and the relationship to their socio-economic characteristics, and levels of social capital and satisfaction with democracy. Contrary to expectations, the findings note that, earning some extra money is important to many, although motivations are more broadly structured around solidary, purposive and material motivations. The article establishes a range of relationships between each set of incentives, and poll workers’ socio-economic, social capital and satisfaction profiles.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clark A, James TS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Public Policy and Administration

Year: 2023

Volume: 38

Issue: 2

Pages: 188-208

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 06/06/2021

Acceptance date: 27/04/2021

Date deposited: 27/04/2021

ISSN (print): 0952-0767

ISSN (electronic): 1749-4192

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/09520767211021203


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Funder referenceFunder name
SG140099British Academy