Racial or Spatial Voting? The Effects of Candidate Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Endorsements in Local Elections

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Authors Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf, Scott A. Mackenzie
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Paper Abstract With the growth of Latino and Asian American populations, candidates frequently must appeal to diverse electorates. Strategies for doing so include emphasizing candidates’ racial/ethnic identity and securing endorsements from racial/ethnic groups. While many scholars focus on candidates’ racial/ethnic attributes, ethnic group endorsements are understudied. Whether such endorsements induce voters to choose ideologically similar candidates (spatial voting), or choose based on race/ethnicity (racial voting) is unclear. We address this question by examining elections in multiethnic local settings. Using original surveys and exit polls, we create comparable measures of candidate and voter ideology, and examine how race/ethnicity and ideology affect voters’ choices. We also embed experiments that manipulate ethnic group endorsements. We find that ideology influences voters’ choices, but that ethnic group endorsements weaken spatial voting. The latter effect among whites is driven by racial/ethnic stereotypes. These reactions explain why some candidates seek such endorsements and why others might prefer to avoid them. Replication Materials: The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this article are available on the American Journal of Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/XYUWYJ. The rapid growth of Latino and Asian American populations in recent years has transformed the American electorate and led scholars to speculate about its political ramifications. Latinos account for over half of the total population growth in the United States between 2000 and 2010. The Asian American population grew 43% during this same period, over four times the national rate. While political participation by these groups continues to lag that of whites (Hajnal and Lee 2011; Wong et al. 2011), Latino and Asian American politicians have become a regular, albeit underrepresented, presence in local, state, and federal elections. According to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, 5,850 Latinos serve in elective offices, and the Asian Pacific Studies Cheryl Boudreau is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616 (clboudreau@ucdavis.edu). Christopher S. Elmendorf is Professor, School of Law, University of California, Davis, 400 Mrak Hall Drive, Davis, CA 95616 (cselmendorf@ucdavis.edu). Scott A. MacKenzie is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616 (samackenzie@ucdavis.edu). This research was generously funded by an Interdisciplinary Research Grant from the University of California, Davis. We thank Jim Adams, Jason Barabas, Cindy Kam, Efrén Pérez, Walt Stone, Lynn Vavreck, Jonathan Woon, and Liz Zechmeister for valuable feedback. Thank you as well to the anonymous reviewers and the Editor for their excellent suggestions. We also received helpful comments from participants in the American Politics Workshop at UCLA, the Experimental Methods Workshop at Vanderbilt University, the Behavioral Models of Politics conference at Duke University, and the Conference on Experiments in State Politics at UC Berkeley. Center lists more than 4,000 Asian Americans holding public offices. Nowhere has the growing strength of Latinos and Asian Americans been more visible than in America’s largest cities. Latinos comprise nearly one-third of residents in America’s 15 largest cities according to the 2010 census, including pluralities in Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and San Jose. Asian Americans make up fully 10% of residents in these same cities, up 26% from 2000. Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Antonio have elected Latino mayors, whereas San Francisco and Oakland have elected Asian American mayors. In these and many other political settings, candidates must navigate electorates where no single racial/ethnic American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 63, No. 1, January 2019, Pp. 5–20 C ©2018, Midwest Political Science Association DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12401
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R

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