Party Identification through Social Identity: The Formation of Partisanship among Latino Immigrants.
Saavedra Cisneros, Angel
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Latinos are now the largest minority in the United States and continue to grow through immigration. I explore the process of partisanship acquisition in Latino immigrants. Because Latinos are often construed as being up for grabs they present an optimal population to study how both parties actively attempt to attract more followers. I argue that in order to better understand the acquisition of partisanship, it is necessary to focus on group identities along with the social and political conditions that make an identity politically relevant. I argue that issues and political appeals affect partisanship mostly by achieving the activation of group memberships that are linked to each party. I first test the conventional wisdom that Latinos are an issue public driven by concerns about immigration policy. Using the Latino Policy Coalition 2006 and the Latino National Surveys (LNS 2006) I show that a) immigration is not the most important issue for Latinos, b) that immigration policy preferences do not drive partisanship and that c) partisanship heavily affects the perception of party competence. Using the LNS 2006 I establish that even though social group identities have direct effects on political partisanship, these effects are moderated by political socialization and an individual's cognitive representation of political parties. This last component refers to Latino's perceptions of political parties, not necessarily political knowledge. Interacting strength of Latino and religious identities with socialization and cognitive representation of political parties I find that with low socialization and little understanding of American political parties, strong identities have no effect on partisanship. On the other hand, for those highly socialized and with clear ideas about the parties, group identities play a crucial role in predicting partisanship. I also show that Latino identity has important effects on issue positions. This project contributes to the literature by showing that a religious group identity might pull Latinos toward the Republican Party and away from Democrats. The findings presented here challenge the existing literature that asserts Latinos mostly base their partisanship on issue positions by showing that pan-ethnic and religious identities play a crucial role in Latino politics.