Nabeela Syed

Job title: 
Class of 2021
2021 Percy Undergraduate Grant

Nabeela is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Science and Business Administration. As a first-generation Indian American, she cares deeply about Asian American and Muslim American advocacy. Nabeela has previously interned for EMILY’s List and New Blue Interactive, where she developed her background in political fundraising and digital strategy. Nabeela hopes to pursue campaign manager roles post-graduation to further her experience in political advocacy.

Research Summary: The role of politically extreme candidates operating within the framework of America’s two-party system has never been more contentious than it is now. While this debate is not new, it certainly has gained more momentum recently. The Democratic Party continues to prioritize appealing to centrists while forgoing their relationship with the progressive wing of their party. Meanwhile, Trump’s more extreme brand of politics has successfully mobilized a loyal conservative movement that propelled him to a surprising presidency in 2016. 

The belief in centrist policies as a favorable campaign strategy is commonly rooted in the Median Voter Theorem introduced by Downs (1957). The Median Voter Theorem models how parties seek to control government, and is applicable to national and local races. Downs maps voter preferences along an ideological dimension. Candidates which propose extreme policies, on the left or right of the scale, will move further away from the majority of voter’s preferred points. Thus, as candidates search to capture a majority of the electorates’ support in a general election, their policies should theoretically converge to the electoral center and appeal to the median voter. Hall and Thompson (2014) find that politically extreme nominees suffer electorally because they decrease their party’s share of turnout in the general election through examining US House races from 2006 to 2014. In fact, they found that political extremism may even skew the electorate towards the opponent’s party. 

I intend to extend their analysis by determining the impact extremist nominees have on electorate turnout for racial demographics. My plan is to look at primary election data in which an extreme candidate had “just won” or “just lost” and determine the effect the primary election had on voter turnout by race for that district in the following general election. This question is extremely important in understanding if and how the policies and ideologies of candidates (which contribute to labeling a nominee as “extreme”) reflect in voter turnout by race. Are minorities being empowered to vote by certain candidates or has there been no impact? My hypothesis is that extreme partisan polarization leaning left (leaning right) in elections encourages (discourages) voter turnout for minorities. 

Debates on how to best increase voter turnout have been ongoing, but the importance of capturing certain demographics hasn’t been explored nearly enough in American Politics literature. This research is imperative in helping understand that.

Research interests: 

Major(s): Business Administration and Political Science