Here Comes Everybody: Using a Data Cooperative to Understand the New Dynamics of Representation

Here Comes Everybody: Using a Data Cooperative to Understand the New Dynamics of Representation

By Paru R. Shah, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Eric Gonzalez Juenke, Michigan State University, and Bernard L. Fraga, Emory University

While women and racial and ethnic minorities remain underrepresented throughout the United States, the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of candidates in state and federal elections has never been greater. Fifteen years ago, before the election of the country’s first Black president, many social scientists and most pundits would have thought today’s more diverse political reality was unlikely. As evidence, they could point to the stunning amount of racial resentment held by white voters, including Democrats (Kinder and Sanders 1996; Krupnikov and Piston 2015). They could highlight the historical rarity of nonwhite and women officeholders at the local, state, and federal levels (Clark 1997). In particular, they would note that even when racial and ethnic minority individuals held office, it usually was in heavily gerrymandered and geographically segregated majority-minority districts (Lublin 1997), resulting in few opportunities for candidates of color to win in majority-white districts. Given all of this evidence—and in addition to the Shelby County vs. Holder (2013) decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act—scholars and pundits had every reason to consider Obama’s 2008 victory as an outlier (Kinder and Dale-Riddle 2012), a lucky break (Lewis-Beck, Tien, and Nadeau 2010), and a precursor to an even greater white-voter backlash against minority candidates (Hajnal 2006).

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