Studies on the effect of increased descriptive representation on political participation have yielded mixed results. This research explores the relationship between descriptive representation and political participation. Specifically, we are interested in understanding how the race and gender of political representatives affect electorate participation. We conduct a unique survey experiment where participants receive communication from a political representative. The treatment conditions varied based on representative race (black, white) and gender (man, woman). We hypothesized that participants who receive correspondence from a representative of the same gender and race as themselves (i.e., in-group) would be more likely to participate than a participant who receives communication from a representative of a different gender and/or race (i.e., out group). Further, we explore the mediated effects of trust, inclusion, and empowerment on this relationship. Results indicate that empowerment mediates the relationship between descriptive representation and political participation. Additionally, evidence suggests an interaction between race and gender. White participants express significantly higher levels of empowerment with a White man representative and lower levels of empowerment with a Black man representative. Additionally, results indicate that Black participants have marginally significantly higher levels of empowerment with a white woman as their representative. The results suggest that the race and gender of representatives significantly affect the electorate and sometimes in (un)expected ways.
Henson, Akayla and Wood, Brittany
"The Mobilizing Effect of Descriptive Representation? The Impact of Representatives’ Race and Gender on Participation,"
Commonwealth Review of Political Science: Vol. 6:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/crps/vol6/iss1/5