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Title: Misengaged, Not Disengaged: How Campaigns Persuade Latino Voters with Economic Messaging
Authors: Wakefield, Derek
Advisors: Mendelberg, Tali
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Campaigns
Latino Politics
Race and Ethnicity
Voting Behavior
Subjects: Political science
Hispanic American studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Latino voter population has become increasingly electorally pivotal and sought after by political campaigns as their share of the voting-eligible population has increased. They are also often the subject of negative appeals based on racism and xenophobia. But despite intense polarization in the recent elections on the topics of race and immigration, Latino voting behavior has not shifted significantly from the historical average of about 65% support for Democrats and 30% support for Republicans, even in elections with Donald Trump on the ballot. To explain this apparent disconnect, I argue that theoretical explanations focusing on race and immigration have been over-emphasized in existing academic research and campaign strategies. Instead, I assert that many Latinos—and especially those who have remained nonpartisan in recent elections—care much more about their economic well-being and will be more persuaded by appeals on economic topics like jobs and taxes, and services like healthcare and education. Using CMAG television ads data, I demonstrate that Latinos are systematically over-exposed to messaging on immigration—especially from Democrats—and are relatively less likely to view economic messaging than audiences with fewer Latinos. I then ran four survey experiments testing how Latino voters from a wide range of partisan identities evaluated various candidate messages on economics, immigration, and abortion. While Latino Democrats and Republicans largely behaved like partisans and supported their in-party candidates regardless of what messages were used, Latino independents were much more favorable towards candidates that used economic content—from either party, but especially from Republicans. Meanwhile, both pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant messages were generally more negatively polarizing than positively persuasive. I conclude by discussing how research on race and ethnic politics, and voter behavior generally, should not over-assume the impact of identity on politics when such behaviors are not manifesting in real-world settings. It is crucial to understand when, why, and for whom identity does (or does not) become politically salient. Instead, an analysis of more baseline concerns about economic well-being and services may explain Latino voting behavior more than a focus on immigration alone.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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