Looks Like Me, Thinks Like Me: Descriptive Representation and Opinion Congruence in Brazil

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Authors Taylor C. Boas, Amy Erica Smith
Journal/Conference Name LATIN AMERICAN RESEARCH REVIEW
Paper Category
Paper Abstract This article argues that descriptive representation, or demographic similarities between legislators and the public, can provide effective substantive representation of citizens’ concerns. We examine representation through the lens of opinion congruence or alignment in the policy preferences of legislators and citizens sharing various identities. Congruence may result from shared material interests or from self-selection into an identity group on the basis of policy views, but it can also be a product of networks and organizations that socialize masses and elites into a common worldview. Though political parties were historically the most important agents of political socialization, we argue that religious organizations constitute a more powerful socializing force in many new democracies. Examining the case of Brazil, we draw on three legislative surveys and fifteen mass surveys to analyze congruence across seven issue areas. Legislators and voters from underrepresented groups—women, Afro-Brazilians, evangelical Christians, and those of lower social class—are generally closer in their opinions than those sharing a party or electoral district. Evangelicals are often the most congruent. Analyzing original surveys of congregations and clergy, we argue that this finding results from the socializing role of churches. Resumen Sustentamos o argumento de que a representacao descritiva, definida como semelhancas demograficas entre os legisladores e o publico, pode fornecer uma representacao substantiva efetiva das visoes politicas dos cidadaos. Examinamos a representacao por meio da lente da congruencia de opiniao, ou seja o alinhamento entre as preferencias politicas dos legisladores e as dos cidadaos que compartilham suas identidades. A congruencia pode resultar de interesses materiais comuns ou de auto-selecao a um grupo de identidade, mas tambem pode ser produto de socializacao dentro de redes e organizacoes que constroem uma visao de mundo comum. Embora os partidos politicos fossem historicamente os agentes mais importantes de socializacao politica, argumentamos que as organizacoes religiosas constituem uma forca de socializacao mais poderosa em muitas novas democracias. Examinando o caso do Brasil, utilizamos tres pesquisas legislativas e quinze pesquisas com o publico para analisar a congruencia em sete areas de opiniao. Legisladores e eleitores de grupos sub-representados — mulheres, afro-brasileiros, evangelicos e pessoas de classes sociais mais baixas — sao geralmente mais proximos em suas opinioes do que aqueles que compartilham um partido ou distrito eleitoral. Evangelicos sao frequentemente os mais congruentes. Analisando pesquisas originais com fieis e clerigos, argumentamos que essa congruencia resulta da funcao socializacao das igrejas.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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