Descriptive Representation and Political Efficacy: Evidence from Obama and Clinton

Descriptive Representation and Political Efficacy: Evidence from Obama and Clinton (January 2017)
The Journal of Politics 79(1): 351-355
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Existing theory suggests that individuals who share their identity with elected officials should have more positive attitudes toward government. However, the effect has not been well identified among African Americans, and the hypothesis is under-explored with respect to women. Thus, I examine the effects of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s successes on African- American and female political efficacy, using Iowa Electronic Markets contract prices during the 2008 primary to proxy daily shifts in perceptions of Obama and Clinton’s likelihood of winning. I combine this with daily political efficacy measures from the 2008 National Annenberg Election Study. African-American efficacy increases with Obama’s perceived probability of success, while white Democrats who prefer Obama are unaffected, suggesting that the effect among African Americans is driven by race (and not the success of a preferred candidate). Clinton’s price is not correlated with women’s efficacy, suggesting that descriptive representation’s effects are less pronounced among women.