A Natural Experiment on Taste-Based Discrimination in Elections

96 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2017 Last revised: 24 Apr 2018

David E. Broockman

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Evan J. Soltas

University of Oxford - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 23, 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

Broockman, David E. and Soltas, Evan J., A Natural Experiment on Taste-Based Discrimination in Elections (April 23, 2018). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 3499. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2919664

David E. Broockman (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Evan J. Soltas

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

10 Manor Rd
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

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