working papers

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The mobilizing effects of emphasizing the sameness or difference of LGBTQ identities

Social movements organized around marginalized identity groups face numerous challenges, not least of which is how to present those identities. In trying to simultaneously mobilize in-group members and win support from the dominant out-group, movements can face a dilemma: the kinds of identity presentation that draw support from outside of the community may dampen internal enthusiasm, and vice-versa. This question of how to present identity is particularly acute for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement (Bernstein, 1997). Assimilationists have argued that presenting LGBTQ people as highly similar to straight/cisgender people will win over out-group allies, while liberationists have argued that celebrating the uniqueness of LGBTQ identities will build a sense of group cohesion and mobilize in-group members. Are appeals from groups that emphasize LGBTQ sameness or difference most effective in mobilizing potential supporters? Do members of the LGBTQ community and straight/cisgender allies respond in different ways to these different presentations of identity? Further, do these different presentations affect how LGBTQ people view their sense of self and group membership, potentially fueling future participation?

Racial resentment, partisan identity, and public opinion about voter fraud

Despite a lack of evidence, the belief that voting fraud is common is widespread and support for requiring voters to show identification (ID) at the polls is high. Observers point to Americans’ racial and partisan predispositions as explanations, viewing support as reflective of Whites’ resentment toward minorities and/or Republicans’ desire to prevent likely Democrats from voting. In this study, I attempt to disentangle these two effects with a survey experiment that primes racial and partisan considerations. Non-Hispanic White respondents were exposed to an image of campaign activists that varied by both race (White vs. non-White) and party (Democrats vs. Republicans) before answering questions about voter fraud. Neither belief in the prevalence of fraud nor support for voter ID laws varied significantly by the image respondents were exposed to. There is some evidence that racial resentment moderates the effect, such that racially resentful Whites see fraud as more common when exposed to images of non-White Democrats. However, for the most part, there are few differences across conditions. I conclude by considering some potential explanations for these null results.

Challenger quality and democratic accountability

Scholars frequently suggest that high-quality challengers foster greater accountability in congressional elections: more experienced candidates should better educate the public about the incumbent’s record and encourage them to punish her for any “out of step” votes. To test these assumptions, I match survey data from the 2006–2010 U.S. Senate elections with multiple measures of challenger quality. The results show no effect of challenger quality on what constituents know about the incumbent’s record or how well they hold her accountable for it. The presence of high-quality candidates thus appears less critical for democratic accountability than many assume.