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Department Seminar: Electoral discrimination against candidates belonging to minority groups: a theoretical puzzle and an empirical challenge

Wednesday, December 1, 2021, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

An influential explanation for the persistent political underrepresentation of minorities in elected office is that minority candidates are discriminated against by voters of the dominant ethnic group. We argue, however, for the need to distinguish between two forms of discrimination: ingroup favoritism and outgroup hostility. We measure the impact of each by using an extensive data set drawn from Swiss elections, where voters can cast both positive and negative preference votes for candidates. Our results show that immigrant-origin candidates with non-Swiss names incur an electoral disadvantage because they receive more negative preference votes than candidates with typically Swiss names. But we also find that minority candidates face a second disadvantage: voters discriminate in favor of majority candidates by allocating them more positive preference votes. These two forms of electoral discrimination are critically related to a candidate’s party, whereas the impact of the specific outgroup to which a minority candidate belongs is less pronounced than expected.

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