The expectation in a representative democracy is that the preferences of the public should influence the behavior of elected officials in Congress. Most scholars agree that this is indeed the case, but they argue that legislators' responsiveness has recently declined. Members of Congress seem to disproportionately represent the interests of their co-partisans and of high-income Americans. Is there also a racial disparity in representation, even after accounting for partisanship? Are white Americans better represented in government decisions than are African-Americans and Latinos? I use multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) to estimate congressional district-level public opinion by racial group, and consequently explore its relationship with legislators' voting behavior in Congress between 2006 and 2016.
Do negative stereotypes associated with African-Americans and Latinos affect public opinion on policies that impact racial minorities? I conduct a series of survey experiments to explore the effect of racial and linguistic stereotypes on support for race-targeted policies. I utilize a series of different racial cues, including black- and Hispanic-sounding names in online communications, pictures of black and white individuals in social media, and black and white actors in a video recorded in the field. Similarly, I present research subjects with the same information delivered by the same individual in English or in Spanish. These surveys gauge the effects of racial and linguistic stereotypes on attitudes toward different race-targeted social policies (e.g., views of the police, federal spending on Puerto Rico) and race relations (e.g., types of discrimination, Black Lives Matter).
Are Black and Latino state legislators as responsive to co-minority constituents (i.e., non-white citizens from a different racial or ethnic minority group) as they are to co-ethnics (i.e., non-white citizens from the legislators’ own racial or ethnic group)? The growing diversification of the American electorate warrants a shift in researchers’ focus to inter-minority relations—that is, instead of comparing each minority group to the white majority, we can learn a great deal by comparing minority groups to each other. I explore this question via an audit study of over 1,000 Black and Latino state legislators in the U.S. This project touches on issues of responsiveness, descriptive representation, and state politics.