Tobias Kindler (Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences (OST)

Topic: Social Workers in Political Office
Language: English 


Background: Social work is closely intertwined with policy processes, and social workers are, in line with the global definition of social work, urged to act as policy actors on diverse levels. One possible way to do so is holding political office. Previous studies exploring this type of macro social work have mostly used the Civic Voluntarism Model to explain social workers’ motivation to hold office. While they contribute valuable insights, they almost all neglect the fact that social workers’ motivation to hold political office might also be influenced by psychological and personal factors.

Research Questions: To address this research gap this study draws on the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and asks the following research questions: (1) To what extent do social workers intend to hold elected political office? (2) How do attitudes, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control influence social workers’ intention to hold political office?

Methods: Drawing on a quantitative research design, members of one chapter of the Swiss professional association of social workers were invited to participate in an online survey. The final sample consists of 92 social workers. Descriptive statistics, and linear regression analysis were used to answer the research question.

Results: The findings show that social workers rate their intention to hold political office as moderate. Their intention is strongly influenced by the TPB’s core factors as well as by age and caregiving obligations.

Conclusions: This study illustrates the willingness of social workers to engage in a very specific type of policy engagement, namely holding elected political office. Moreover, this study uses for the first time in this field of research the TPB to explain social workers’ intention to hold elected office. These findings have implications for social work education, practice, and research that will be addressed in detail in this presentation.