A Natural Experiment on Taste-Based Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in Elections

A Natural Experiment on Taste-Based Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in Elections

By David Broockman, Evan J. Soltas
April 23,2018Working Paper No. 3499

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