Constituency Diversity and Representation in the American States Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Hansen, Eric
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • Over the last half century, Americans’ elected representatives have polarized along party lines. Political scientists have studied how ideological divisions among citizens provide electoral incentives for politicians to take extreme or partisan positions on the issues. However, Americans remain politically divided along other demographic and socioeconomic cleavages separate from ideology. This dissertation explains how social group cleavages among voters polarize American politics through the electoral system. In short, candidates for office behave as strong partisans to unite the support of various party-aligned social groups in diverse districts, but behave as independent, constituency-minded representatives in districts where one social group constitutes a majority of voters. I provide evidence using the case of racial and ethnic diversity in the American population and bring to bear data describing voting populations, campaign behavior, and legislative behavior in the 50 states. Chapter 1 introduces and provides context for the research. Chapter 2 distinguishes ideological diversity from racial and ethnic diversity and provides evidence that ideological diversity in the electorate results from differences in urbanization and education levels, not race. Chapter 3 uses the text from campaign websites and a survey of state legislative candidates to show that candidates campaigning in racially diverse districts behave as stronger partisans than candidates running in racially homogeneous districts. Chapter 4 uses the roll-call voting records of state legislators to demonstrate that representatives of more racially diverse districts vote more along party lines and that legislatures representing racially diverse states tend to be more polarized. Chapter 5 lists the broader conclusions of the work. This dissertation explains how social diversity contributes to the polarization of American politics in the electorate and in government.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gray, Virginia
  • Treul, Sarah
  • Clark, Christopher
  • Carsey, Thomas M.
  • MacKuen, Michael
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

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