Politicized Identities and Preferences for Political Representation

Awarded Scholars:
Deborah Schildkraut, Tufts University
Project Date:
Jun 2012
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

The American population has become increasingly diverse in the last few decades, and current trends indicate that it will become even more diverse in the future. While these trends are easy to measure, far less is known about their actual impact on American society and institutions. As diversity increases, the concept of an “American identity” may be shifting, and many may also have competing identities. Recent immigrants, for example, may identify with their country of origin, while others may strongly identify with their racial or ethnic group. Research has demonstrated that attachment to ethnic or national origin identity is often politically innocuous, but in some cases can strongly impact an individual’s political engagement, especially when this identity is the target of discrimination. In a time of political turmoil, when many Americans do not feel well represented by the political system and have little political voice, it is important to understand how identity impacts political alienation in an increasingly diverse country.

Deborah Schildkraut will examine how identification with one’s national origin or ethnic group impacts beliefs about the adequacy of representative democracy in the U.S. She will study whether and when perceptions of discrimination activate the power of group identities to shape belief in democratic representation. Her comparative ethnic analysis will examine the conditions under which ethnic and national identification impact the kind of representation that people desire and the extent to which they feel represented.


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