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Discerning Claim Making: Political Representation of Indo-Canadians by Canadian Political Parties

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Author: Gill, Anju
The targeting of people of colour by political parties during election campaigns is often described in the media as “wooing” or “courting.” How parties engage or “woo” non-whites is not fully understood. Theories on representation provide a framework for the systematic analysis of the types of representation claims made by political actors. I expand on the political proximity approach—which suggests that public office seekers make more substantive than symbolic claims to their partisans than to non-aligned voters—by arguing that Canadian political parties view mainstream voters as their typical constituents and visible minorities, such as Indo-Canadians, as peripheral constituents. Consequently, campaign messages targeted at mainstream voters include more substantive claims than messages targeted at non-white voters. I conduct a content analysis of political advertisements placed during the 2004–2015 general election campaigns in Punjabi and mainstream Canadian newspapers. The analysis shows that political parties make more symbolic than substantive claims in both categories of newspapers; however, Punjabi newspapers contain slightly more symbolic claims than the mainstream ones. The Liberals and NDP make more substantive claims in Punjabi newspapers than the Conservatives.
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