A Natural Experiment on Taste-Based Discrimination in U.S. Elections
94 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2017 Last revised: 21 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 21, 2018
We exploit a natural experiment to identify taste-based discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and women in elections. In Illinois Republican presidential primaries, voters vote for delegates bound to particular presidential candidates. Delegates’ names convey information about their race and gender, but voters’ incentives for statistical discrimination against nonwhite or female delegates are negligible. We identify taste-based discrimination from variation in vote totals by delegate race and gender within groups of delegates bound to the same presidential candidate and who face the same populations of voters, all of whom a voter should vote for to fully support their preferred presidential candidate. Examining delegate vote totals from 2000 to 2016, we estimate nonwhite delegates receive 10 percent fewer votes than comparable whites but find essentially no gender discrimination. This racial and ethnic discrimination alters delegate election outcomes, costing voters’ preferred presidential candidates convention delegates. Our estimates are robust to several possible confounds, and further analyses support a taste-based interpretation.
Keywords: Taste-Based, Racial Discrimination, Voter Behavior
JEL Classification: D72, J15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation