Education outcomes, party contacting, and change in party identification Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Kershaw, David C.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • This dissertation presents three studies that challenge the conventional understanding about the ways in which political elites influence citizens' orientations toward, as well as the citizens' resources that bear upon, political participation. The studies question assumptions about the intent and consequences of elite behavior in three distinct, but related substantive literatures. These literatures include: electoral contacting, party identification formation, and state education outcomes. The first study helps explain the long observed pattern where political elites disproportionately contact the socioeconomically and politically advantaged during elections despite theory from the campaign mobilization literature that argues contacting will have the most influence on individuals who are socioeconomically and politically disadvantaged. This paradox is explained once one recognizes that contacting during elections serves divergent goals that are tied to the election cycle and to election competitiveness. Broadly speaking, contacting in elections should be seen as having two participatory recruitment stages: a resource gathering stage-with resources coming from the advantaged-and a mass-mobilization stage-where every vote counts only when elections are competitive. The second study challenges the idea that political parties and their operatives only alter party identities through a few indirect mechanisms: strategic positioning on issues and performance of elected officials. Rather, this study argues that campaign contacts have the unanticipated consequence of offering opportunities for behavioral reinforcement of citizens' party identities. The final study reassesses the racial discrimination explanation for the persistent relationship between statewide diversity and poor education outcomes. While this study reaffirms the existence of the pattern, a critical finding is that socioeconomic status and other conventional explanations are better at predicting poor education outcomes than state level diversity. By probing more deeply, this study also discovers that white student outcomes drive the association between diversity and outcomes.
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  • Rabinowitz, George
  • Open access

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