Professor Receives WPSA Award

Professor Melissa Michelson in class with her students.

January 26, 2012

The Western Political Science Association (WPSA) conferred its “Best paper on the politics of the American West” award on Melissa Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College, and her co-author Ali Adam Valenzuela, Assistant Professor at Princeton University, last week.

“I have been doing work on getting out the vote in ethnoracial communities for over ten years.  My goal is to reduce the disparities in participation that make our democracy less representative of the diversity of the population,” said Michelson. “Ali came up with the idea of testing the power of different messages cueing Latino vs. American identities.”

The paper, titled “Turnout, Status and Identity in Los Angeles: Mobilizing Latinos to Vote in Two Contrasting Neighborhoods”, focuses on differences in political attitudes and behavior among voters from two areas: Montebello (a middle-class Latino neighborhood) and East Los Angeles (a working-class Latino neighborhood with a stronger Latino community). One of the findings is that ethnic identity is less salient for Montebello voters, and they consider political participation a worthy activity; while East Los Angeles voters become politically active only when voting allows them to demonstrate and emphasize their sense of Latino solidarity.

Michelson presented the paper with Valenzuela during the 2011 Convention of the WPSA, and will receive the award at the association’s next annual meeting in March.