Cultural Identity and Political Preferences

March 22, 2012

In a nation with a rising percentage of Mexican-American citizens, 2012 presidential candidates may want to change their strategies when trying to get the Latino vote, according to Laura P. Naumann, assistant professor of psychology at SSU.

Naumann's research project entitled "Political orientation and acculturation strategies in U.S. born Mexican-Americans" studies how the cultural identity of Mexican Americans born in the United States reflects upon their political affiliation. 

"Mexican-Americans are in a unique position of straddling two cultural identities," she says. 
"Individuals who choose to minimize their cultural heritage and adapt to the mainstream culture use assimilation strategies. Individuals who choose to incorporate both of their cultural identities use integrationist strategies."

Naumann, along with her research collaborator Veronica Benet-Martinez, whom she worked with in 2009 while both were completing a post-doctoral fellowship, surveyed a large sample of Mexican-Americans about how strongly they identified with Mexican and American identities. They were also asked how they chose to incorporate their identity into their daily life and political orientation.

Based on the data, Naumann found that Mexican-Americans who voted conservatively were more likely to downplay the importance of their Mexican identity and increase the importance of being American. Conversely, those who vote more liberally strongly identified with their Mexican identity as well as their American identity. 

"Interestingly, both types of acculturation strategies are good strategies to reduce acculturative stress-stress experienced being bicultural and navigating the dominant culture," said Naumann.

Naumann presented her research both at the annual psychology conference, The Society for Personality and Social Psychology in San Diego this past January, and at the faculty expo last week.

"We hope to publish this soon because we think it has important implications for the 2012 presidential election, especially for the republican candidates - it would be important for them to know that Mexican conservatives downplay their Mexican identity, so it's probably best to not pander to them using Mexican culture," said Naumann.

Her interests in Mexican-American political affiliation stem from her Mexican-American heritage and her research interests in how culture and context shape one's personality and self-concept. In the future, Laura hopes to examine how other factors such as ethnic identity strength, biculturalism, and acculturation shape self-perception processes.

This is Naumann's third year teaching at SSU. She teaches courses in personality psychology, research methods, and a small seminar in stereotyping and prejudice. Her research examines the intersection of personality with culture to examine how people differ in their experiences of daily life.

Naumann received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in personality and social psychology from UC Berkeley.