Do Latinos Party All the Time? The Role of Shared Ethnic Group Identity on Political Choice
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The overarching question of this dissertation is do Latinos prefer co-ethnic candidates and if so, to what degree? I examine how Latinos evaluate co-ethnic candidates—both those who share one’s partisanship and who do not. In addressing the former, is the evaluation higher of a candidate who not only shares one’s partisanship but also ethnicity or is the double in-group status redundant? I then address a more complex question, how do Latinos evaluate Latino candidates who do not share their partisan identity. The dilemma of having contradictory social group identities places a voter at an electoral fork in the road. To understand which road the voter ultimately takes I consider individual ethnic social group identification and the substantive meanings of ethnic group categories. I look at how different dimensions of Latino group identity influence the ultimate evaluation of a coethnic candidate. More specifically, I consider how and when a Latino social group identity influences political choice. I begin addressing the questions of when and how a Latino ethnic group identity can influence a political choice through an analysis of extant survey data. I also make use of original survey experiments that allow me to determine if there is a causal relationship and to probe the dimensions of Latino group identity. The results indicate that there is an in-group candidate preference. In some instances, an ethnic in-group match by itself predicts political choice, but not for all Latinos and not all the time. More substantive measures of Latino group identity serve to differentiate who among Latinos are most likely to prefer an ethnic in-group candidate. I find that substantive measures moderate a preference and in some instances a distancing from the Latino candidate. In general, Latinos with higher levels of Latino group identification are those most likely to support a Latino candidate. However, the preference for a Latino candidate depends on whom that Latino candidate is—Republican or Democrat. In short, Latino preferences for co-ethnic candidates are variegated, but significantly and substantively influenced by the individual’s level of ethnic identification and the type of Latino candidate choice at hand.
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