Political Science ETDs


Lisa Sanchez

Publication Date



This dissertation examines the relationship between changes in demographics and changes in congressional polarization. It comes out of two important trends in American politics in the last several decades: (1) Rising Latino Population and (2) Rise in Party polarization in Congress. Latinos are the primary source of immigration to the United States and high fertility rates among this population are contributing to a record number of Latinos becoming eligible to vote. According to Pew every 30 seconds, a Latino becomes eligible to vote totaling 66,000 every month. In terms of the polarization trend, Congressional polarization is at its highest point since reconstruction. Since the mid- 1970s it has continued to steadily rise with Republicans pulling away from Democrats at a faster rate than Democrats are pulling away from Republicans. Looking at these two trends leads me to ask: to what extent are the two trends related? My dissertation finds that there are several reasons to believe that they are related, chief among them the lower levels of ideological extremity exhibited by U.S. Latinos. Using a combination of data from the American National Election Survey (ANES) and data from the Almanac of American Politics between 1972 and 2014, I find that a rise in Latino population leads to important changes in the ideology of whites and Latinos residing in Congressional districts, as well as moderation of their member of Congress.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Sanchez, Gabriel

Second Committee Member

Krebs, Timothy

Third Committee Member

Barreto, Matt




Latino, Congress, Polarization, Racial Threat

Document Type