The Impact of Perceived Representation on Latino Political Participation
Latinos are a large and growing portion of the US population but are less numerous among participants in politics than their numbers would suggest. Predictions of the future rates of participation among Latinos depend heavily upon understanding the causes of current rates. A substantial proportion of the disparity in participation rates between Latinos and non-Latinos can be accounted for by the numbers of noncitizens and by other factors related to a large pool of immigrants, differences in socioeconomic resources, and the young age distribution of Latinos. However, these summary statements obscure differences across types of participation. They also obscure differences across Latinos of different national origins. Much of the analysis done to date of the Latino National Political Survey (LNPS) has made clear that Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and Cuban-Americans can differ as much from each other as members of each group differ from non-Latinos. This paper uses the LNPS data to examine the factors related to different types of political participation among US Latinos of different national origins. Borrowing from the standard participation literature, we consider the impact of resources, engagement, and recruitment.
The Latino population provides an especially useful case for testing hypotheses about the impact of mobilization upon activity. Political leaders have actively appealed to Latino ethnicity both in structuring political competition and in seeking support. I have proposed elsewhere that the success of such appeals in increasing participation will hinge in large part upon whether or not the targeted public believes itself well-represented by the leaders. The LNPS contains several items relevant to perceived representation. This paper will use the LNPS data to test the effect of perceived representation upon political participation, while taking account of the other factors that affect levels of activity.