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Polemical Identities, Electorate Demographics and Electoral Rules: Strategic Identity-Signaling by Protestant Candidates in Brazilian Municipal Elections

Reuben Hurst

Abstract: I analyze how electoral rules and electorate demographics affect whether candidates who hail from polemical minority groups highlight or downplay this identity when running for political office. I present a model predicting that when voters rely entirely on identity signals, an office-motivated candidate’s decision to broadcast or downplay her polemical identity will depend on 1) Electoral rules, 2) Constituency demographics and the 3) The electoral salience of the candidate’s identity. This model motivates my analysis of the use of Protestant ballot titles by Protestant candidates in Brazilian municipal elections from 2002 to 2014. In line with the model’s predictions, I find that Protestant candidates are significantly more likely to broadcast their Protestant identity in proportional city council races compared to majoritarian mayoral races, but that this difference shrinks as Protestants compose a relatively larger fraction of the electorate. This model and accompanying empirical analysis build on behavioral findings regarding the pervasiveness of identity voting as well as the fundamental prediction from political economy that proportional rules allow for a wider range of competitive alternatives relative to majoritarian rules to show why candidates often project median identities. Additionally, it provides a novel assessment of how electoral rules mediate the expression of Protestant Christianity in Brazilian politics.
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When and Where

Map Haven Hall - 5670 Eldersveld

March 2018

12:00pm - 1:30pm

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