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Political scientists are paying increasing attention to understanding the role of sexist attitudes on predicting vote choices and opinions on issues. However, the research in this area measures sexist attitudes with a variety of different items and scales. In this paper, I evaluate some of the most prominent contemporary measures of sexism and develop an approach for identifying optimal items based on (1) convergent validity, (2) predictive validity, and (3) distance from politics. I find that a subset of items from the hostile sexism scale exhibit the most desirable measurement properties and I conclude by recommending a simple two- to five-item reduced hostile sexism battery that will allow scholars to efficiently, validly, and consistently measure sexism.
What are the consequences when politicians make prejudiced statements? Theories about the suppression of prejudice argue that people are likely to express more prejudice when they believe that norms are more permissive than they may have otherwise assumed. Using a series of experiments carried out during and since the 2016 campaign, Brian Schaffner shows that being exposed to Donald Trump's prejudiced rhetoric causes people to express more prejudice themselves. Notably, this is not merely a 'Trump Effect;' people's commitment to anti-prejudice norms is undermined even when exposed to prejudiced rhetoric attributed to unnamed politicians. These findings are consequential; if politicians increasingly feel at liberty to express explicit prejudice, then the mass public is likely to take cues from such behavior, leading them to express more prejudice themselves. This may lead to increasingly heightened inter-group tensions which could pose a threat to political and social stability in the United States.
In 2016, attitudes related to racism and sexism were strong predictors of vote choice for president. Since then, issues related to race and gender have continued to be an important part of the political agenda. This letter shows that hostile sexism and denial of racism emerged as stronger predictors of the House vote in the 2018 cycle than they had been in 2016. The results show that the increased importance of these factors came largely from the shifting of less sexist and less racist voters from voting Republican in 2016 to voting for Democrats in 2018. Overall, the results suggest that Trump's hostility towards women and minorities is becoming part of the Republican Party's brand, and that this appears to have created an electoral penalty for Republican candidates in 2018.
Are local politics usually characterized by disagreement or consensus? While scholars of politics in major cities such as New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles have long emphasized the centrality of racial and class cleavages in elections and governing, the conventional wisdom is that local politics outside such urban behemoths – that is, in the thousands of smaller cities and towns where nearly 3 in 4 Americans live – are relatively staid. According to this view, local politics are distinctive from national or state politics because they typically revolve around relatively low-stakes issues and rely on elected officials who are characterized more by managerial acumen than ideological fervor. These characteristics, the argument goes, make local politics relatively placid in comparison with the pitched battles that frequently roil national politics.
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed eighteen-year-old African American man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, following a violent altercation on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. With many of the crucial facts surrounding Brown’s death under dispute – in particular, whether Wilson’s stop of Brown was justified, whether Wilson or Brown initiated the confrontation, whether Brown surrendered or resisted arrest – many residents in the majority African American community took to the streets to protest what they viewed as an emblematic instance of police brutality, as well as general indifference among community leaders toward the concerns of black and brown residents. In response, Ferguson police – and eventually the Missouri National Guard – mustered an intimidating show of force in an effort to contain the protests. The presence of large numbers of heavily armed police and guardsmen exacerbated an already tense situation, leading to charged and sometimes violent encounters between protestors and law enforcement officials. Wilson’s killing of Brown, the heated and sometimes violent protests, and the extraordinary heavy-handedness of the police response made the events in Ferguson national news, riveting public attention and forcing conversations about police brutality and the over-policing of communities of color.
For many Americans of color, the promise of local democracy seems unfulfilled. On average, African Americans and Latinos are underrepresented descriptively on municipal councils, ideologically distant from local elected officials, and poorly represented in the overall ideological orientation of local government policy. At the same time, however, the picture is not uniformly bleak: There are perceptible differences in how well or how poorly different local governments perform in substantively representing the preferences of African American and Latino constituents.
In the previous chapter, we examined patterns in descriptive representation, ideological congruence representation, and policy responsiveness across economic groups in communities throughout the United States, revealing the substantial underrepresentation of citizens with low wealth at the municipal level. Importantly, however, Chapter 7 focused largely, though not exclusively, on general patterns of (inequality in) representation. This emphasis, while vital, has the effect of minimizing the nontrivial number of instances in which less affluent residents receive considerable representation at the local level.
An impressive body of research has expanded our understanding of how American democracy works, as well as when and why it fails to do so. Important studies have focused on inequalities in representation based on race, generally finding that nonwhites receive less representation from government than do white constituents. Meanwhile, a growing body of research examining the relationship between income and representation suggests that “the wealthiest Americans exert more political influence than their less fortunate fellow citizens do.”
A rural, working-class community of about 12,000 residents (38 percent of whom are African American), Brookhaven, Mississippi, is located in Lincoln County, approximately 60 miles south of Jackson, the state’s capital. Traditionally, Brookhaven has been dominated by timber and cotton concerns, and these industries still play a major role in the community, along with light industry and warehousing and distribution services. In tacit acknowledgment of the economic and social challenges the town has faced in an era of globalization and rising economic inequality, a local history describes the town as “a charismatic survivor” that persisted in the face of “vicissitudes similar to those which resulted in the diminishment or disappearance of [other] formerly flourishing Lincoln County villages and towns.”
Houston, Texas is a city of roughly 2.3 million people, located in the southeastern portion of the state, near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It has a dynamic economy, with two dozen Fortune 500 companies, the nation’s second-most-active port, and significant energy, technology, aerospace, medical, and manufacturing sectors. Although the city has a white-plurality population (37.3 percent of residents identify as white), it is very racially diverse, with 36.5 percent of residents identifying as Hispanic/Latino; 16.6 percent identifying as African American; 7.5 percent identifying as Asian; and 2 percent identifying as “Other.” Compared with many cities of similar size, Houston boasts an attractive combination of abundant jobs, affordable housing, and exciting cultural amenities.
In 2017, researchers at Portland State University reached an eye-popping conclusion about the state of participation in local politics in the United States. Examining more than 23 million voting records, as well as information about community populations from the US Census, they estimated rates of voter turnout in the nation’s fifty largest cities. Their findings were staggering – and depressing. Across the fifty communities, the median turnout rate in municipal elections was only 20 percent of the eligible electorate, and in Las Vegas, Ft. Worth, and Dallas, turnout was in the single digits. “low voter turnout is a problem in cities across the country,” the study leaders concluded. “Too few people choose our local leaders.”
Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, is a village of 26,000 residents in Racine County, Wisconsin, a suburban area approximately 30 miles south of Milwaukee. Although historically devoted to agriculture, the village economy is now dominated by the retail, industrial, and health care sectors. Mount Pleasant boasts numerous local, national, and international companies, “including Putzmeister, Case New Holland, SC Johnson, Diversey, Horizon Retail Construction, Racine Federated, and many others.” The village is fairly prosperous: The median family income ($59,584) is slightly above the state median of $59,305, and more than 40 percent of residents possess at least an associate’s degree. Nearly 72 percent of residents own homes, with a median home value of $172,292.
Local governments play a central role in American democracy, providing essential services such as policing, water, and sanitation. Moreover, Americans express great confidence in their municipal governments. But is this confidence warranted? Using big data and a representative sample of American communities, this book provides the first systematic examination of racial and class inequalities in local politics. We find that non-whites and less-affluent residents are consistent losers in local democracy. Residents of color and those with lower incomes receive less representation from local elected officials than do whites and the affluent. Additionally, they are much less likely than privileged community members to have their preferences reflected in local government policy. Contrary to the popular assumption that governments that are “closest” govern best, we find that inequalities in representation are most severe in suburbs and small towns. Typical reforms do not seem to improve the situation, and we recommend new approaches.