Sam Zimmerman

Exclusive Nationalist Rhetoric Can Reduce Ethnic Representation in Government: Why Nationalist Rhetoric Matters

April 3, 2021   /  

Name: Sam Zimmerman
Major: Political Science
Minor: Statistical and Data Science
Advisors: Advisor: Dr. Matthew Krain, Dr. Désirée Weber

This study attempted to highlight the effects of nationalist rhetoric on ethnic representation in national government through experimental design. In particular, the effect of nationalist rhetoric was hypothesized to be dependent on three things: the inclusive/exclusive nature of the rhetoric, the political elite who is saying the nationalist rhetoric, and whether the people engaging with the nationalist rhetoric had an affinity for the national identity. Ultimately, this study found exclusive rhetoric by well perceived elites engaged by people with an affinity for the national identity was effective in impacting decisions which lead to worse ethnic representation. In addition to the overarching result, however, certain demographic indicators, such as party and ideology, were also found to influence the effects of nationalist rhetoric in their own unique ways. For example, participants who identified as Democrats were influenced by exclusive nationalist rhetoric and inclusive nationalist rhetoric by elites they liked without having an affinity for the national identity. All together, the results demonstrate nationalist rhetoric likely impacts ethnic representation in the descriptive sense and further research should be pursued to better understand its effects.

Click to watch Sam’s video presentation.

Sam will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST 9-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening) and 4-6 pm EDT (PST 1-3pm, Africa/Europe: late evening)

18 thoughts on “Exclusive Nationalist Rhetoric Can Reduce Ethnic Representation in Government: Why Nationalist Rhetoric Matters”

  1. Hi Sam! I definitely see themes from our political psychology course in your SR IS project! Congrats on completing this important project.

    1. Thanks Professor Bos. Like I said in the fall, the political psychology course ended up influencing the approach in the study (especially our readings from Theiss-Morse). It was very cool to look into the national identity construction process and think of what variables might be important to impacting it. That class certainly helped for sure!

  2. Sam – What a joy it was to work with you on this! You set up ambitious goals with your study, and were able to follow through so expertly. I know that in the process you even had to pare down what you had hoped to do in this study. But as you know, what you have found is so important, particularly in our current moment. If you had one piece of advice for a student who was contemplating studying how elite rhetoric and perceptions of national identity affect political outcomes such as representation, what would you tell them?

    1. Thanks Professor Krain! It is always my tendency to come up with a bunch of ideas which will not work, so I appreciate you keeping me grounded. As for a piece of advice, I would recommend that student to simply try things in addition to paying attention to the three variables I pointed out in my study. Rhetoric is messy and not easily measured/quantifiable, so any approach which provides a structured understanding of rhetoric and its surrounding contextual variables is going to be informative on what helps our understanding and what does not. In addition, I would also encourage people to be creative with the game in order to find something which measures political decisions that correlates highly with political decisions found in real life. I don’t truly know how representative my game was of actual political decisions, so any study which demonstrates the usefulness of a game in understanding how political decisions happen in real life would create a better understanding for what is going on.

  3. Great job Sam! Very clever use of leveraging gamification for your simulation. What an creative way to collect your data instead of an off-the-shelf survey/poll system!

    1. Thanks Professor Guarnera. It is always difficult to simulate real life activities in an online environment, so it is sometimes a good idea to “gamify” the process.

      Very cool what a little (with the emphasis on little) background of coding can let you do. Not only did taking some coding background allow me to make the game, I was also able to use python to quickly photoshop and generate dozens of tweets for elites to simulate rhetoric. It opened up a lot of possibilities for the project.

  4. Hi everyone. Feel free to ask any questions about any of the additional results which are not shown in the powerpoint/video or anything else for that matter. The video ended up being a little long, so I decided it would just be better to talk about them in person.

  5. Hey Sam, thanks for sharing! Congrats! I was interested in what method you used to classify rhetoric as inclusive or exclusive.

    1. Hi Carlos. In particular, I classified rhetoric by looking at group distinctions. If the rhetoric made ethnic group distinctions in contrast to the national identity (inferring they were outsiders), I considered it to be exclusive. Inclusive rhetoric did not make ethnic group distinctions and emphasized a national identity which was diverse and widely encompassing of the people within the state.

  6. Congratulations on this academic achievement, Sam! I assume that this study is mainly (or exclusively) based on U.S. politics, correct? Also, do you see any generational differences and patterns in terms of their use and influence of social media? Thank you!

    1. Thanks Professor Park. Correct, this study is based solely on US participants and the US political environment. Facebook participants (all living in the US) who took my study were much more likely to be older (25% were between the ages of 18-39), but younger participants saw a similar impact by rhetoric as the other participants. Beyond that, I do not really have any information about what age groups are more likely to engage with elite rhetoric on social media. Every platform is likely different, and the influence of rhetoric through different mediums of communication may differ across themselves.

  7. Congratulations on finishing your IS, Sam! I definitely see themes from our Nationalism and Interdependence class (Hearn!) at work here. What background coursework did you find most helpful in completing this project?

    1. Thanks Riley. The Nationalism and Interdependence class certainly helped in addition to the Political Psychology, Idiocracy (my FYS), Political Violence and a couple others. Our nationalism course, in particular, was helpful for highlighting the importance of national identities and understanding how they may impact political behavior. Political psychology helped with understanding identity construction and the process in which it occurs. Basically, I drew upon most of the courses I have taken and incorporated what I learned here and there.

  8. This is a great project with important implications! I understand this project is exclusively focused on US participants, but do you think the same framework can be applied to international settings? I am thinking along the lines of any nationalist rhetoric that may lead to future political violence due to a lack of ethnic representation? Thank you for sharing and contributing to this field!

    1. Hi Emily. I definitely think the general theory with some tweaks can be applied to an international setting, but there would need to be more studies done to say this is indeed the case. I imagine those studies would have to tweak my approach to take into account the different political situations of different states (using appropriate rhetoric for the state, appropriate political elites, and a representative game), but it certainly can be done to see how widely my theory can be applied.

      1. I definitely agree, and it is interesting to think about how your approach can be used in other scenarios. Thank you for the consideration! Congratulations on a great IS!

  9. Hi Sam-I really enjoyed this, and I found your method of data collection unique and interesting. Thank you for sharing. All the best to you!

    1. Thanks Professor Pierce. Glad you found it interesting. I hope you are doing well after such a hectic year and are looking forward to a return to normalcy!

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