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02-01-2021 | Original Paper | Issue 1/2021

Political Behavior 1/2021

The Face of American Government: Effects of Racial and Ethnic Firsts on Minority Perceptions of Government Responsiveness

Journal:
Political Behavior > Issue 1/2021
Authors:
Mara C. Ostfeld, Diana C. Mutz
Important notes

Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11109-020-09664-9.
We thank Chelsea Schaefer for her invaluable contributions to this paper. Replication data for the analyses reported in this paper can be found at the Political Behavior Dataverse page: https://​doi.​org/​10.​7910/​DVN/​FUVGCM.

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Abstract

What effect does seeing a member of a historically marginalized group in high-level office have on attitudes toward government among those who identify with that group? We hypothesize that, when salient, increased descriptive representation will increase feelings of government responsiveness among members of historically marginalized groups. Moreover, we hypothesize that this effect will persist even when substantive representation is not expected, that is, when the official is viewed as unlikely to represent the individual's own political interests. We explore this theory by taking advantage of two exogenous changes in descriptive representation: the election of the first African–American president, Barack Obama, and the confirmation of the first Latino on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. Using panel data and a difference-in-differences design, we analyze within-person changes in attitudes toward government among African–Americans and Latinos, from before to after these events. In doing so, we attempt to separate descriptive from anticipated substantive representation.

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