Navigating identity : how candidate identities influence campaign communication, electoral outcomes, and voter perceptions
- Continued underrepresentation in the U.S. Congress has fomented a large literature on stereotypes and voter perceptions. And yet, research also finds that women and racial minorities do not appear to suffer an electoral penalty when incumbency status is held constant. Scholars have proposed various selection arguments to explain the seeming inconsistency in the literature---perhaps women and racial minorities are on average better candidates, or choose to run in more favorable districts, as compared to their counterparts. I instead theorize that voters may hold negative attitudes about demographic groups, but also likely perceive of candidate identity as a single piece of information to be processed, among many. Underrepresented candidates are likely aware of negative voter expectations regarding their identity, and the degree to which these judgments undercut their valence. Given this, underrepresented candidates are compelled to message differently about their qualifications on campaign trails, leading to variation in messaging topics. Moreover, voters respond positively to campaign messages from underrepresented candidates that signal competency, affecting electoral outcomes. I provide evidence for this through four unique empirical chapters. (1) In my first chapter, I argue that social expectations about women and racial minorities incentivize underrepresented candidates to preemptively dispel damaging generalizations. To test this, I harvested archived congressional campaign websites from over 6,000 campaigns from 2008--2016 through the Archive-It database and analyzed variation in messaging using a Structural Topic Model and split-sample design. I find evidence that female and racial minority candidates are more likely to discuss their background, individualism, endorsements, and work ethic. The selection of these topics has a statistically significant effect on the log-odds of electoral victory, suggesting their use may overcome voter bias; (2) In my next chapter, I use conjoint survey experiments to assess how messages and information related to candidate competencies influence voter attitudes. The AMCE of highlighting messages of individualistic work-ethic was positive and significant. Importantly, the interaction effect of identity and message showed that underrepresented candidates benefit from signaling competency to a significantly greater degree; (3) In my third chapter, I leverage a menu-based choice model, which enables respondents to determine the ideal combination of attributes from a menu, rather than choosing between fixed profiles. With this model, I can infer the most preferred attributes respondents require candidates to possess before endowing positive evaluations and support—as well as the differences in these given candidate identities. I find that on average, respondents are more likely to prefer that underrepresented candidates possess more years of political experience and education, more rigorous occupations, as well as messages that highlight competency; (4) Using my corpus of campaign websites, in my last chapter, I assess whether campaign messages are also influenced by constituent demographic identity. I argue that policy topics and representative claims communicated by candidates are directly a function of the demographic and political groups within the district. I find that the use of extreme partisan language leveraged by candidates is related not only to district partisanship, but also the level of district diversity. I also show that as the proportion of district minority grows, candidates are more likely to target them with representative claims, and identity-evoking issue communications.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Cryer, Jennifer Elaine
|Fiorina, Morris P
|Fiorina, Morris P
|Degree committee member
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science
|Statement of responsibility
|Jennifer Elaine Cryer Brown.
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2020.
- © 2020 by Jennifer Elaine Cryer
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC-ND).
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