PUBLISHED and forthcoming

Acquarone, Iris E. and Gonzalo Di Landro. “Historically Marginalized Groups and Ideological Representation in Legislatures.” Forthcoming. Legislative Studies Quarterly.


Previous work shows that party candidate selectors are biased against the inclusion of historically marginalized groups and that inclusion has focused primarily on winning votes. Yet, why, of all strategies to gain support, would biased elites become inclusive of backgrounds other than their own? I posit that it is the salience of marginalization that makes strategically inclusive parties opt for inclusion in contexts of electoral necessity (e.g., navigating an uncertain electoral scenario or struggling electorally). Moreover, when marginalization is salient, elites are more likely to include if they know voters want inclusion. A 2x2 between- and within-subjects field experiment and semi-structured interviews with party elites in Uruguay demonstrate that when marginalization is salient: (1) parties select more candidates from underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and youth, if they face a declining performance, and, (2) respond to demands for inclusion. Public opinion and electoral incentives interact to make representation more inclusive.

How diverse are political institutions? Despite the theoretical and political relevance of this question, there is no standard measure of diversity in political institutions, which hinders systematic research on patterns of diversity around the world. This letter introduces a Diversity of Representation Index (DORI), a measure of diversity considering multiple sociodemographics and their fair representation. Moreover, I provide the first comprehensive data on descriptive diversity in parliaments in 28 Western democracies from 1789-2020 in terms of age, gender, and race and ethnicity. I first show that sociodemographic diversity has been low throughout the period, but has increased since the 1960s due to the inclusion of historically underrepresented groups. Then, by drawing on applications across various fields, I illustrate the significance of studying diversity in political science research and highlight how DORI serves as a versatile and multidimensional unified measure to evaluate it.

The figure in the header is from this working paper.  The map shows the DORI index, or how diverse political representation is in terms of the age, gender, and racial and ethnic background of legislators in the national parliaments of Western democracies in the last year of available data. Darker colors indicate higher diversity values. 

Political scientists have maintained a longstanding interest in enhancing minority representation in American politics. However, minority candidate emergence as the precursor to representation has been largely overlooked. We argue that district magnitude and political empowerment are key institutional drivers influencing historically marginalized group members' decisions to run for office in the United States. Drawing on an original dataset on African American's presence in office and candidate pools, district demographics, and electoral institutions, combined with candidate emergence data for most 2018 and 2020 state legislative elections, we show that African American candidates are more likely to emerge in multi-member state legislative districts and when politically empowered across various posts. These findings have important implications for understanding how institutions shape candidate emergence incentives and, ultimately, descriptive representation, and contribute to the renewed upsurge in electoral reform discussion in the United States.

4. Closer to You? Candidate Gender and Proximity Voting
(with Jonathan Homola)

How does candidate gender affect voter preferences under the traditional model of spatial competition? Although prior work shows that voters tend to have biased perceptions of ideological positions and issue expertise when comparing female and male candidates, we do not yet know how these perceptions ultimately influence vote choice in a proximity framework. We argue that voters are confronted with a trade-off involving (i) candidate gender, (ii) ideological distance (proximity considerations), and (iii) policy issues (valence considerations). We disentangle the interplay of these three factors by using a survey experiment and by re-analyzing existing survey experiments which neglected candidate gender as an otherwise unimportant control variable. The results help us better understand the interplay of candidate gender and proximity voting as well as the advantages and disadvantages that female politicians face when running for office. As such, they contribute to a lively literature on gender gaps in voter perceptions as well as voting preferences and vote choice.