Theses Doctoral

Identity and Agency: Majority and Minority Ethnic Voting in New Democracies

McClelland, Benjamin Patrick

This dissertation examines how ethnic identities are politicized through elections in new democracies. Using the cases of post-communist Latvia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, I compare the electoral success of campaigns which appeal to voters on the basis of ethnicity to those do not. I argue that ethnic parties are most likely in groups for whom two conditions are met. First, ethnicity must meaningfully differentiate ethnic insiders from outsiders, in such a way that voters will believe policy benefits will likely result from political representation for the group. Second, electoral institutions must ensure that the political mobilization of the group will result in electoral victory. These two conditions create fundamentally different incentives for ethnic majority groups and ethnic minority groups simply because of differences in group size. In most democracies with a large minority population, ethnic voting will be more likely among the majority group than the minority group, unless institutions encourage minority group voting by lowering barriers to entry. The results demonstrate the qualitatively different ways groups use ethnic identities as a resource to achieve political objectives, with important implications for minority group representation, political participation, and democratic governance in diverse societies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Frye, Timothy M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2020