Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs


- 83 - Representing the Underrepresented: Descriptive Representation and Political Interest of African Americans and Women in the 2008 Election Kristine Coulter University of California, Irvine Jennifer R. Garcia University of California, Irvine Christopher T. Stout Southern Illinois University, Carbondale In this article, we examine the effect of the presidential candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin on change in political interest among African Americans and women over the course of the 2008 election. We also examine the effects of these candidacies on intra-group characteristics in these marginalized groups. Consistent with the descriptive representation literature, we find that descriptive representation has a positive effect on African American’s and women’s levels of political interest. Unlike previous studies, we find that there are intra-group differences in change in political interest among African Americans and women. In particular, we find that age is negatively associated with growth in interest among African Americans and women, indicating that younger African Americans and women experienced the largest growth in interest over the course of the 2008 election. These results suggest that African Americans and women who are not fully socialized into the political system may benefit the most from descriptive representation.



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