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The Effect of Descriptive Representation on Latinos' Views of Government and of Themselves

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  • *Direct correspondence to Gabriel R. Sanchez, Department of Political Science, University of New Mexico, MSC05-3070, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 〈sanchezg@unm.edu〉. The author will share all data and coding materials with those wishing to replicate the study. The authors thank Matt Barreto and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

Abstract

Objective. This article investigates the relationship between descriptive representation and the political attitudes of Latino citizens in the United States. We specifically test the impact of both panethnic and national-origin specific representation on Latino citizens' attitudes toward government and their individual-level identity.

Methods. Original data on the ethnicity and national origin of Latino mayors in 2005 and 2006 was merged with the Latino National Survey (2006) to analyze the impact of descriptive representation on four specific outcomes: perceptions of political alienation, efficacy, political commonality, and linked fate.

Results. We find a meaningful relationship between descriptive representation and the political attitudes of Latino citizens. However, the impact of representation varies by level (panethnic vs. national origin) and the particular outcome of interest.

Conclusions. By developing a Latino-specific model of descriptive representation, this investigation improves our knowledge of how recent increases in the number of Latinos elected to public office have impacted the Latino electorate.

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