Ben Bishin’s interests include questions of democracy, representation, identity and ethnicity, public opinion, polling, legislative politics, Cuban-American and LGBT politics. He is the author of “Tyranny of the Minority: The Subconstituency Politics Theory of Representation,” and a recipient of the 2001 Jewell-Loewenberg Award for the best paper on legislative politics and, along with his co-authors, winner of the 2011 and 2014 Bailey Awards for the best paper on gay and lesbian politics. He was also a principal investigator of the 2004 and 2008 Miami Dade County Exit Poll.
Bishin was the principal investigator for exit polling in Miami-Dade County in the 2004 election. Research he and scholars from the University of Miami and the University of Exeter conducted before the November 2008 presidential election found that Cuban-American voters remain strongly Republican, conservative and opposed to easing sanctions on the Castro regime. Cuban American voters in Florida are more conservative than those nationally, however, so backing for normalization among Cuban American voters generally is likely strong.
Exit polling in Florida found greater diversity on social issues, which may portend changing political allegiances. The overwhelming homogeneity among Cuban-American voters in supporting Republicans, the travel ban to Cuba and the embargo on trade with the communist nation conceals much greater diversity of opinion on issues such as gay marriage, gun control and abortion.
On Same-sex Marriage
Concerns that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling favorable to gay marriage might produce a backlash that would impede efforts to achieve equality are unfounded, Bishin’s research has found. For decades, those invoking backlash have told traditionally disadvantaged groups that they should not press their claims, among them women, African-Americans and Latinos.
Bishin and his co-researchers conducted online experiments in which people were asked to react to a state supreme court ruling allowing gay marriage and assigned the participants to read articles about the legalization of gay rights in Oregon, a gay pride parade and gun-control policy. A second experiment compared subjects’ reactions before and after U.S. Supreme Court hearings on California’s Proposition 8 and on restrictions on marriage recognition and benefits contained in the federal Defense of Marriage Act. There was no evidence of opinion backlash on the issue of gay marriage in either experiment. In fact, contrary to theories of backlash, experiment participants viewed gays and lesbians more warmly after the Supreme Court hearings than participants did before.
The government we have is the government that the framers, who were economic elites, designed, and we are seeing the result of that structure today, Bishin says.
In his 2009 book “Tyranny of the Minority,” Bishin describes how intense minorities are able to achieve their policy objectives. “Politicians gain disproportionate benefits by appealing to citizens who feel very strongly about things. Usually they are able to tap in to some aspect of how individuals see themselves. It’s particularly easy for this intense minority of tea party supporters to achieve their policy objectives because their objectives are to stop things from happening in Congress. Congress and our government in general are designed to make it difficult to get things to happen.”
Redistricting has led to a high level of electoral security for most members of Congress. “The reason (certain Republican) legislators are free to take actions we view as extreme is they don’t have to worry about facing an electoral challenge from a Democrat. … Their concern is not with trying to appeal to the average voter or what the majority of the public wants. They want to appeal to their intense constituency, which is a particular wing of the Republican Party.”