1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the Department of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy and the Democracy and Elections Centre?
I arrived at Royal Holloway in 2017, having only ever held one permanent position before that. I've been very lucky in my career -- I got a permanent position straight after my PhD, something which would be very unlikely these days.
I think I've done most things in the department -- I've taught on the big introductory first year courses, I've taught specialised Masters and third year courses, and I spent a year as head of the department.
With the Democracy and Elections Centre, I'm now trying to make sure that the fantastic research done by colleagues here is as visible as it can be. We recently had the first lecture in what will be an annual series, and we've got some exciting interactivces coming on stream at our website -- see https://hollodec.github.io/ for a sneak peek.
I've been interested in local opinion for several years now. For me, it's helpful to have this kind of information because without good data, people tend to imagine that opinion in their area is closer to their own opinion than it really is. MPs talk about the "issues that matter on the doorstep", but I've yet to hear an MP say, "people on the doorsteps were telling me something different to what I expected, or what I think matters". I mention MPs just because I study politics -- this kind of wishful thinking certainly isn't restricted to MPs, but affects all of us.
The partnership with Survation is really important, because you need a lot of data to get constituency-level estimates of opinion, and we're only able to run this tracker because we help them with some of their own commercial work on local opinion.
3. What are your main research interests?
I probably have too many research interests. I'm most well known for my work on public opinion, but I've also written on judicial politics and the politics of quangos. I think if there's a single concept that ties together everything I do, it's representation: sometimes we want a nice tight link between what people think and what public servants do, because that's how we secure representation. But sometimes we don't want that link -- we want to make sure that courts, or regulators, are insulated from public pressure.
4. What inspires you in your work, and outside of work?
I'm very lucky in that my department has a tonne of smart early career researchers. There's a brilliant quantitative politics reading group where some of us share work in progress, and I've started to ask questions or offer my comments only at the end, just because I enjoy so much riffing on what others have already said. More generally I'm often inspired by researchers in the natural sciences -- there are so many great stories of serendipitous discovery that it really helps me when I'm struggling with my own research!
5. How do you like to spend your free time?
I think it's a really good idea for anybody who teaches to do one thing that they are pretty bad at -- one thing that they just don't get. With that in mind, let me say that I am a really bad tennis player. I've taken lessons, but it seems like I'm a slow learner.
Before the pandemic, I also used to do hot yoga, but since the pandemic started spending time indoors sweating in the company of others hasn't seemed as attractive.