Julián Tárula

Major and Classification

Political Science

Faculty Mentor

Ricardo Ramirez, Ph.D.


Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, & Sciences

McNair Project

“Representing America: The Effects of Descriptive Representation on Political Participation”

Project Abstract

This study examines the demographic characteristics of elected officials’ effect on the political participation of registered voters. Analysis focuses on the effects of descriptive representation (i.e. a form of representation where the legislative bodies are demographically similar to the population they represent (Pitkin 1967)). According to the literature descriptive representation increases political participation; however, these studies are highly localized and only sample Black and Latino populations. This study expands this area of research using data from the 2008 Collaborative Multi-Racial Political Study (CMPS) – a nationwide multi-racial and multilingual survey of registered voters, which provides a representative sample of registered voters from all racial/ethnic groups. Sociopolitical attitudes, political activity, and demographic information are supplemented with each respondent’s elected official’s demographics. Accounting for known predictors of political participation, the data shows that descriptive representation has varying effects on different forms of participatory acts for Whites, Blacks, Asians and Latinos. The effects seen, however, were minimal. By studying factors that contribute to an individual’s propensity to participate in political acts, mobilization factors and strategies can be identified to increase American political participation.