Rewarding Contention: Social Activism and Political Capital

Does activist experience translate into political capital? In this paper, I use a conjoint experiment in Spain to explore whether voters reward candidates for activism in social movements and what drives voters' (dis)approval of activists-turned-politicians. I find that activist background increases support among left-wing voters but decreases it among right-wing voters. I show that this type of experience serves as an informative signal of candidate's ideological position and, in case of some movements, makes the candidate more likely to be perceived as honest and better at representing voters' interests. Finally, this is not the case for political outsiders in general, indicating that activism is associated with political capital independent of detachment from the establishment.