Symbolic Representation in Election Administration: An Experiment Exploring Trust, Fairness, and Job Performance

Grants and Contracts Details


Symbolic Representation in Election Administration: A Survey Experiment Exploring Trust, Fairness, and Job Performance This project will investigate the impact of racial diversity in election administration. Specifically, we seek to understand how the racial makeup or passive representation of minority election officials could influence perceptions of trust, fairness, and job performance for Americans. Scholarship suggests that the demographic composition of public agencies affects citizen perceptions (Riccucci, Van Ryzin, and Jackson, 2018; Pitts 2005; Meier 1996). However, research specifically on representation in election agencies is limited. Within election administration, the representation literature has primarily focused on the racial composition of poll workers and the voters they serve (King and Barnes, 2019), finding that when Black and Hispanic/Latino voters interact with a poll worker of shared racial identity, they have greater confidence that election outcomes reflect the intentions of voters. Since then, no published study has further explored how racial composition can shape voters’ views of election institutions. In this study, we extend this inquiry by exploring how varying levels of racial representation affect the perceived trust, fairness, and job performance of state-level election administration agencies. America’s unique history surrounding race and elections in past and recent years makes this topic an interesting and essential area of institutional research. Considerable attention has been given to the significant turnover of local election officials following the 2020 election. A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice suggests that over 1 in 5 local election officials serving in the 2024 election will be new. As we think about what the field of election administration will look like in the future and who will fill these important roles, better understanding how the composition of election offices affects voters'' perceptions of election administration will expand our knowledge of the role diversity plays in election administration and provide more insight into what role diversity should have in discussions of recruitment and retention for the field. Prior research shows that a minority presence in other fields, like policing, can legitimatize the work of public servants in the eyes of citizens (Theobald and Haider-Markel 2009). As such, a similar effect may be present in other fields with histories of racial disparities. Additionally, the important role that state election officials and agencies play in ensuring and communicating the integrity of elections has been highlighted in recent elections (Example: Former President Donald Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to overturn the state''s presidential election result in a January 2021 phone call that lasted more than an hour; citing several claims that were debunked by Secretary Raffensperger (Treisman, 2022). Given this and what we already know about representative bureaucracy at other levels of government that are more removed from citizens'' daily interactions, considering what effect, if any, the racial composition of state election offices has on citizen perceptions of trust, fairness, and job performance is warranted.
Effective start/end date4/1/2412/31/24


  • Bipartisan Policy Center Incorporated: $43,306.00


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