Skip to main content

"i'm Not the President of Black America": Rhetorical versus Policy Representation

Author(s): Haines, Pavielle E.; Mendelberg, Tali; Butler, Bennett

To refer to this page use:
Abstract: Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019. A key question in the study of minority representation is whether descriptive representatives provide superior substantive representation. Neglected in this literature is the distinction between two forms of substantive representation: rhetoric versus policy. We provide a systematic comparison of presidential minority representation along these two dimensions. Barack Obama was the first African American president, yet his substantive representation of African Americans has not been fully evaluated. Using speech and budget data, we find that relative to comparable presidents, Obama offered weaker rhetorical representation, but stronger policy representation, on race and poverty. While we cannot rule out non-racial explanations, Obama's policy proposals are consistent with minority representation. His actions also suggest that descriptive representatives may provide relatively better policy representation but worse rhetorical representation, at least when the constituency is a numerical minority. We thus highlight an understudied tension between rhetoric and policy in theories of minority representation.
Publication Date: 4-Jun-2019
Citation: Haines, PE, Mendelberg, T, Butler, B. (2019). "i'm Not the President of Black America": Rhetorical versus Policy Representation. Perspectives on Politics, 10.1017/S1537592719000963
DOI: doi:10.1017/S1537592719000963
ISSN: 1537-5927
Pages: 1 - 111
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Perspectives on Politics
Version: Author's manuscript

Items in OAR@Princeton are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.