Office of Research, UC Riverside
Subramanian Ramakrishnan
Professor of Public Policy & Political Science
SPP - Dean's Office
karthick@ucr.edu
(951) 827-5540


Doctoral Dissertation Research: When Descriptive Representatives? Faces Don?t Match Their Races:Inconsistent Attributes and Evaluations of Multiraci

AWARD NUMBER
008853-002
FUND NUMBER
33331
STATUS
Active
AWARD TYPE
3-Grant
AWARD EXECUTION DATE
3/28/2017
BEGIN DATE
4/1/2017
END DATE
10/31/2018
AWARD AMOUNT
$21,623

Sponsor Information

SPONSOR AWARD NUMBER
1647186
SPONSOR
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
SPONSOR TYPE
Federal
FUNCTION
Organized Research
PROGRAM NAME

Proposal Information

PROPOSAL NUMBER
16121335
PROPOSAL TYPE
New
ACTIVITY TYPE
Basic Research

PI Information

PI
Ramakrishnan, Subramanian K
PI TITLE
Other
PI DEPTARTMENT
Political Science
PI COLLEGE/SCHOOL
Coll of Hum, Arts & Social Sci
CO PIs

Project Information

ABSTRACT

General Summary:
As the US population becomes more diverse, the diversity of candidates running for political office also becomes more diverse. This increasing diversification includes multiracial candidates, those who identify with two or more races. While political science research has identified how voters from different backgrounds evaluate minority candidates, most of that research focused on single-race minority candidates. Furthermore, much of this work also assumes that minority candidates "look like" the racial groups with which they identify. Given the growing multiracial population and racial ambiguity, however, these assumptions may be inappropriate. We know rather little about how Americans might evaluate multiracial candidates and elected officials. This proposal asks whether there are costs or benefits to how constituents evaluate elected officials when candidates' physical characteristics do not correspond with generally accepted conceptions of racial appearance. The author develops a series of survey experiments to investigate this question. The project draws on research in American racial politics, evaluations of minority candidates and officials, and social psychology. The researcher argues that the effect of exposure to racial consistency or inconsistency and constituents' responses depend on where a multiracial candidate is situated within in a hierarchy of racial identities. The evaluation is also influenced by the race of the respondent, along with the respondent's own tolerance for uncertainty. The researcher argues that exposure to racial inconsistency can trigger feelings of uncertainty about a multiracial official's identity, racial alignments, and issue stances. As such, the less tolerant of uncertainty a respondent is, the more negatively s/he will evaluate the multiracial official. The Intellectual Merit of this research stems from the proposed experiments, which allows the investigator to estimate the causal effect of the treatments -- the introduction of candidates' physical characteristics -- on the evaluation of candidates. Using racial appearance to study multiracial officials tests a relatively unexplored phenomenon that may explain how voters evaluate representatives more generally. The Broader Impacts of the study include a better understanding of how race is a barrier for the political representation of minority populations as the United States becomes more diverse. As multiracial candidates become more common, they will have to appeal to more racially diverse audiences to win elections. This research will help to discern the extent to which multiracial candidates might be constrained by their physical appearance when trying to appeal to their own groups.


Technical Summary:

This research utilizes four survey experiments that feature photos of real-world politicians who vary in gender, phenotype, and racial background. The experiments manipulate candidates' stated race as either consistent or inconsistent with their racial phenotype. The survey sample will consist of Black, Asian, and White respondents who opt-in to participate as part of a professional survey panel. Respondents will be invited to participate in a survey about how voters evaluate politicians. They will be randomly assigned to to read an article about a public official. The article will feature the politician's photo, and information taken from the politician's website or other news sources. Descriptions of the official's racial background will be manipulated by including the following script: "As a [racial group], I try to use public service to make America a better place for all." Respondents will then answer questions about their feelings of uncertainty regarding the officials? racial identity. This includes the officials' ability to understand the political needs of the racial group with which the official identifies. It also assesses the extent to which the official is a typical member of that racial group. Additionally, the survey will provide insight into a range of respondent evaluations of the candidate, such as: emotional responses to the official, feelings of political efficacy, feelings of political alienation, feelings of warmth toward the official, trait evaluations of the official, and likelihood the official probably performs certain duties in office. The researcher will subject these data to a series of statistical tests to determine whether the experimental manipulations had any effect on respondents' evaluations of these public officials.
(Abstract from NSF)