The Electoral Impacts and Limits of
In my dissertation, which forms part of a book project, I develop a theory about the linguistic specificity of politics: I argue that our partisan socialization is highly sensitive to language, which, in turn, means that the political development of bilinguals in the U.S. is going to look different than for monolinguals. Implicit in this framework is the fundamental belief that observed differences in attitudes and behavior between languages are meaningful. I used a series of survey experiments on a sample of respondents that identified as Hispanic or Latinx and speak both English and Spanish to investigate whether some of the most well-documented modes of elite influence have parallel relevance when the language varies. Of equal importance were key features of the experimental design carefully devised to address the challenges involved in the study of language: selecting bilinguals as the population of interest; using a novel approach to determine linguistic competencies; and randomizing the language assignment. Briefly, I indeed find an apparent interference in the effectiveness of what should reliably be powerful messaging strategies when communicated in one language versus another. Taken together, such sensitivity to the change in language underscores the need for scholars and campaigns alike to rethink how they attend to these linguistic considerations rather than just work around them.