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The Impact of Intersectional Identities and Threat on Political Representation

Ernest Dupree, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The dissertation presented here examines political representation in the United States from both the legislative perspective and the constituent perspective. I ask several distinct but related questions which are: Do descriptive representatives largely provide substantive or symbolic representation?, 2. What type of political representation do citizens prefer? and, 3. How do realistic and symbolic threat influence preferences for political representation? These questions are becoming increasingly important in our changing world in which there is an increasing focus on racial attitudes. To answer these questions, I use a combination of content analysis, surveys, and survey experiments to examine how descriptive legislators provide substantive and symbolic representation, how citizens prefer to be represented, and how realistic and symbolic threats influence perceptions of political representation. These forms of representation are often not studied in tandem and less experimental work has been conducted to examine the combined impacts that include racial attitudes. The last two studies use unique surveys to examine political representation and racial attitudes. In the first chapter I demonstrate that descriptive representation can lead to substantive representation but also that Black female representatives are the most likely to provide substantive representation for Black interests. In the second article, I show that both Blacks and Whites are interested in having descriptive representation and that substantive representation is sometimes less important than symbolic representation. In the last article, I show that realistic and symbolic threats have marginal impact on direct preferences for political representation but have a larger impact on indirect impacts for political representation. I conclude the dissertation by reviewing the findings and highlighting the implications and future work.

Subject Area

Political science|Social psychology|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Dupree, Ernest, "The Impact of Intersectional Identities and Threat on Political Representation" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28258606.