Candidate Asian-ness and Descriptive Representativeness
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Sample size: 3180
Field period: 07/09/2021-09/02/2021
This study examines how an Asian candidate’s national origin background affects their perceived ability to represent different constituents. Would Asian voters prefer any Asian candidate over someone who is non-Asian? Using a series of survey experiments that randomly emphasize the national origin backgrounds of two real politicians and of a hypothetical politician, I find that politicians who are East or Southeast Asian are viewed as more representative of Asian American interests than those who are South Asian. Nonetheless, respondents agree that Asian politicians, regardless of national origin, will represent Asian Americans more than a non-Asian politician. While national origin background matters, there is still potential for an electoral advantage based on shared Asian pan-ethnicity. However, this advantage may come at a cost due to non-Asian voters feeling significantly less represented by an Asian politician. These results contribute to our understanding of the salience of pan-ethnic identities in electoral contexts.
H1: Perceived Asian-ness will be greater in the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian conditions than in the control or Black conditions
H2: The politician’s perceived ability to represent Asian Americans will be greater in the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian conditions, relative to control
H3: Among the three Asian prime conditions, the politician’s perceived ability to represent Asian Americans will be greatest in the Chinese and weakest in the Indian conditions.
In a hypothetical vignette describing a political candidate, the candidate’s racial background varies across treatment conditions. The candidate is described as being the first Chinese woman, Vietnamese woman, Indian woman, Black woman, or woman elected to the mayor’s office. In the control condition, the candidate’s racial background is not stated, though their name is chosen to imply that they are white.
Perceived Asian-ness: "How strongly would you identify [Candidate Name] as Asian?"
Represents Asian American community: "[Candidate Name] would represent the interests of the Asian American community" (5pt agree-disagree scale)
Represents respondent's interests: "[Candidate Name] would represent my interests" (5pt agree-disagree scale)
Represent respondent's community: "[Candidate Name] would represent the interests of my community" (5pt agree-disagree scale)
Summary of Results
With regards to H1, survey respondents perceived Chinese (0.42, p<0.01), Indian (0.14, p<0.01), and Vietnamese (0.40, p<0.01) candidates to be significantly more Asian than a presumed White candidate). For H2, survey respondents believe Chinese and Vietnamese candidates to represent Asian Americans more than a White candidate (0.07, p<0.01 and 0.09, p<0.01 respectively). Finally, for H3, I find that the politician’s perceived ability to represent Asian Americans is weakest in the Indian background condition. However, the difference between the estimates for a Chinese and Vietnamese candidate are not statistically significant.