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Latino Decisions

Department of
Political Science

Department of
Chicana/o Studies


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Research Projects

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Bunche Hall 3345

Matt A. Barreto ::

Current Research Projects

  • The Voting Rights Act and Minority Voters [ Project Website ]
    In Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 US 30 (1986) the Supreme Court interpreted Section 2 of the recently amended Voting Rights Act (1965), making analysis of racially polarized voting necessary to examine two of three elements related to minority vote dilution. In addition to geographic compactness, the court established minority political cohesiveness and white bloc voting as pre-conditions that can be determined through racial bloc voting analysis. In Gingles, the now familiar definition of racially polarized voting was framed as occurring when there is a “consistent relationship between race of a voter and the way in which the voter votes.” Put simply, racially polarized voting occurs when minority and non-minority voters, considered separately, would have elected different candidates to office. Related and implicit to this inquiry, is whether or not the minority group in question constitutes a “politically cohesive unit.” If minorities did not behave as a cohesive unit at the polls, evidence of racially polarized voting on the part of non-minorities would be difficult to find.

  • Will the Real Americans Please Stand Up? Race, Liberty and the Tea Party Movement [ Project Website ]
    [With Christopher Parker] If the media attention paid them, and the way(s) in which GOP public officials rush to accommodate the group is any indication, the Tea Party movement is a force to be reckoned with. Questions about this new movement abound: Who is the Tea Party? What do they believe? For instance, is the observed antipathy toward the president really about politics? Or is it really about race or xenophobia? Even though the Tea Party isn’t happy with the current regime, do they have faith in the American political system writ large? Or do are they irretrievably alienated from the political system? Do they truly believe, as they claim to, in the principles of freedom and equality? Or, are the benefits of freedom and equality limited to tea-party supporters? Finally, how does support for the Tea Party affect their political behavior? Are they more likely than non-supporters to participate in the political process, including protest?

  • 2010 Washington Poll: Investigating Ethnicity, Race, Sexuality [ Project Website ]
    An annual project of WISER, the Washington Poll is a statewide survey of registered voters in Washington state that serves two purposes. First, is to collect relevant public opinion on issues of the day in the Evergreen state and issue press releases on voter attidues and vote choice in the November election. Second is to collect academic survey data for research on issues of ethnicity, immigration, race, prejudice and sexual orientation for scholars working on issues of diversity in American Politics. In 2009, the Washington Poll asked questions about racial attitudes, perceptions of immigrants, stereotypes about gays and lesbians, and attitudes towards issues of diversity under the new Obama presidency (among a range of other topics such as health care reform). This proejct is a collaborative effort, primarily with Chris Parker (UW Pol Sci) and Todd Donovan (WWU Pol Sci) and WISER graduate students: Loren Collingwood, Betsy Cooper, Chris Towler, Francisco Pedraza, Marcela Garcia-Castanon, and Ben Gonzalez. In 2009, the Washington Poll was implemented on campus at the UW Pol Sci Survey Research Center.

  • 2008 Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey
    The 2008 Presidential election was historic, not only because of the candidacy of Democrat Barack Obama, but also due to the unprecedented outreach and involvement of minority voters. Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans were all targets of voter mobilization, as well as speculation about the formation, or lack of support for a broad minority coalition. This project implements a post-election survey in November-December 2008 to ask a large national sample of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Whites questions about mobilization, campaign interest, group identity, media exposure, and ultimately vote choice and voter turnout. This marks the first national survey that will have a validated voter turnout for all four major racial groups in America, each with a minimum sample of n=1000. This project is a collaborative effort of multiple scholars studying race, public opinion, and voting, including: Sylvia Manzano, Ricardo Ramirez, Gabe Sanchez, Karthick Ramakrishnan, Janelle Wong, Lorrie Frasure, and Ange-Marie Hancock.

  • Perceptions of Black-Brown Competition among Latinos
    [With Gabe Sanchez] Since 1980 the Latino population has doubled in size from 20 million to 40 million, and surpassed Blacks as the largest minority group in the United States. As a result, many now question the rainbow coalition, and instead suggest that the two minority groups are in direct competition with one another. We argue that previous research has incorrectly measured feelings of competition or conflict, by not taking a comparative view of how Latinos or Blacks view inter-group relations with other groups besides each other. Using data from the Latino National Survey (2006) we test a model of Black-Brown competition to determine what factors cause Latinos to view African Americans as their competitors. Overall, we find evidence that Latinos view very little competition with Blacks. We find that competition is somewhat higher in Southern states, however social interactions between Latinos and Blacks can reduce or eliminate perceptions of competition.

  • The Muslim American Public Opinion Survey 2007-08 [ Project Website ]
    [With Karam Dana] Most political science research on racial and ethnic minorities in the United tends to focus on African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos. Further, most studies of Muslims typically look at democratization and political participation in the Middle East. Relatively few efforts have been made to understand the patterns of social, civic, and political participation among Arab/Muslim Americans in the United States, despite great increases in their population, citizenship, and voter registration over recent elections. This study will focus on two important concepts in racial/ethnic politics among Arab/Muslim Americans: the notion of linked fate or shared group consciousness, and the resulting impact on political participation. During Eid al Adha and following through February, we will implement a public opinion survey of Arab/Muslim Americans in the greater Seattle area, in an effort to better understand the political impolications of religious and ethnic shared community in the U.S. and also provide comparative data for Arab/Muslim Americans on many traditional measures of political behavior and participation.

  • Plugged in or tuned out? Youth, Race, and Internet Usage in the 2008 Election
    [With Marcela Garcia-Castanon and Allison Rank] . Over the course of the last three presidential elections, young voters and minorities have become an increasingly sought after segment of the electorate. In particular, youth are also the most likely to be the beneficiaries of advances to technology, while minorities often lag behind in access. The 2008 election provided a number of examples of campaigns utilizing online technology as a means of targeting young voters. This article examines the role of the internet on young and minority voters, focusing specifically on internet used for political purposes, such as visiting a candidate’s website or engaging in political discussions on blogs, as predictors of youth political participation offline. We find that engaging politics online does lead to increases in political participation offline, and that among younger voters, racial minorities as connected as Whites. However, among older voters, Whites are far more likely to have access and use the internet politically.

  • The effects of targeted ads on Latino and non-Latino vote choice
    [With Jennifer Merolla & Ricardo Ramirez] Despite limited experience courting the Latino community, both political parties made a point to campaign aggressively for Latino “swing” votes through advertisements and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drives in 2006. While there is a new commitment to Spanish language advertising and direct contact with Latino voters, no evidence exists that this targeted outreach has worked. The question remains, does targeted advertising influence the vote choice of Latinos, and, how does this advertising affect the more general population? To address these questions, we implemented an experiment during the 2006 California election. Latino and non-Latino subjects were randomly assigned to a control or treatment group. Those in the treated groups received a flyer endorsing Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor, containing an endorsement from a Latino or an Anglo political figure. The treatment ads were further divided into English only or in both English/Spanish. Thus, the groups were as follows: Anglo endorser English, Latino endorser English, Anglo endorser bilingual, and Latino endorser bilingual. We expect to find that targeted messages should have a stronger influence on vote preference than non-targeted messages among Latinos. Further, the combined effect of a Latino endorser with a message delivered in both languages might have the strongest effects. Finally, non-Latinos should be less receptive to the Latino-targeted ads, perhaps witnessing a demobilizing effect.

  • The Effects of Competitive Elections on Efficacy
    [With Matt Streb] Using data from ANES 1950 – 2004 we examine the impact of district-level competitiveness on political efficacy and trust in government. Given that an overwhelming number of the US House contests are uncompetitive, scholars have wondered what impact the lack of competition has had on voter attitudes. From a normative standpoint, many scholars have argued that competitive elections are essential to democracy because they make elected officials more responsive to the citizenry, raise awareness of important issues, engage voters in debates on issues of the day, and provide opportunities for turnover in representation, holding members of Congress accountable to the public. Theoretically, we should expect this to have a positive result on efficacy and trust. Previous research has suggested that uncompetitive elections might decrease interest in politics and efficacy and result in low levels of trust of government. On the other hand, always being in a district where your co-partisan wins could increase satisfaction with your member of Congress while bitterly fought campaigns might become negative and turn voters off from the electoral process and both parties, resulting in lower levels of efficacy and trust. This paper will take up this debate by taking a comprehensive approach which incorporates a national dataset over period of 50 years. This approach will also allow us to determine how this relationship has changed over time, and varies by region.

    Contact: mbarreto(at)

    Department of Political Science