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Party Mobilization, Class and Ethnicity

The Case of Hawaii, 1930 to 1964

by Gary G. Aguiar

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Institution: Indiana University
Advisor(s): R. Robert
Degree: Ph.D., Political Science
Year: 1996
Volume: 404 pages
ISBN-10: 0965856437
ISBN-13: 9780965856430


This study seeks to explain the types of strategies party elites use to attract voters. How do party elites decide which kinds of incentives to offer, at what period, in what way, and to which groups? This study investigates the efficacy of competing and overlapping class and ethnic cleavages. Incentive theory suggests that organizations will offer three types of appeals: material (tangible rewards), solidary (enjoyment through participation), and purposive (policies and programs). First, using U.S. Census data, this study examines the social context of Hawaii in terms of ethnic and class characteristics. Second, using interviews with party elites, it explores the kinds of appeals new Democrats used. Third, using precinct-level election results and neighborhood characteristics, this study examines the party's coalition of class and ethnic groups.

New Democrats in Hawaii shifted from a class-based appeal to an ethnic-based appeal over time. Party elites found that class-based appeals were effective to gain power. However, once they became the majority party, Democrats found that appeals to Japanese-Americans were a particularly successful strategy. Democratic politicians continued to rely on the latter's allegiance. The context of two large ethnic groups (i.e., Caucasians and Japanese) and many smaller ones allowed the party to solidify their ties to Japanese voters. Hence, party elites, constrained by the social context, exploited ethnic differences to maintain their electoral coalition.

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