Working-Class Legislators and Perceptions of Representation in Latin America

Tiffany D. Barnes, Gregory W. Saxton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


How does the near-exclusion of working-class citizens from legislatures affect citizens’ perceptions of representation? We argue that when groups of people are continually denied access to representation, citizens are less likely to believe that their interests are represented by the legislature. By contrast, more inclusive institutions that incorporate members of the working class foster support for representative bodies. Using a multilevel analysis of eighteen Latin American countries—a region plagued by disapproval of and disenchantment with representation—we find that greater inclusion of the working class is associated with better evaluations of legislative performance. These findings have important implications for strengthening democracy in Latin America, as they indicate that more diverse political institutions may be key to deepening citizens’ attachments to representative bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-928
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Nicholas Carnes, Anthony DiMaggio, Mirya Holman, Christpoher Karpowitz, Fanny Maidana, Jana Morgan, Valeria Palanza, Jesse Johnson, and the University of Kentucky Political Science Research Colloquium for helpful comments on previous iterations of this work, as well as the editors at Political Research Quarterly, and four anonymous reviewers for invaluable feedback on this research. The authors also thank the Latin American Public Opinion Project and the University of Salamanca for making their data publicly available. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 University of Utah.


  • Latin America
  • descriptive representation
  • legislature
  • symbolic representation
  • working class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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