Wilson Center Experts

Janelle Wong

Fellow
United States Studies

Expertise:
North America
;
United States
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Political Science and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California
Wilson Center Project(s):
"Immigration, Religion, and Conservative Politics in America"
Term:
Sep 01, 2006
-
May 01, 2007

I received my Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 2001. That same year, I joined the faculty at USC, with a joint appointment in the Department of Political Science and in the Program in American Studies and Ethnicity. Much of my intellectual energy over the past five years has been devoted to a research agenda that seeks to develop new and innovative scholarship on immigration, race, and political participation. My research emphasizes cross-racial comparisons to better understand the political mobilization and incorporation of ethnic groups in an increasingly diverse context. Today, one out of every five people living in the United States is an immigrant or the child of immigrants. Because of their immense demographic force, immigrants and their children exert a profound effect on the nation's institutions and communities. The political incorporation of these groups, mainly arriving from Asia and Latin America in the contemporary period, poses major long-term challenges and opportunities for participatory democracy in the United States. The central argument of my recent book, Democracy's Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions is that low levels of political participation among contemporary immigrants are not due to apathy or preoccupation with the homeland, as some popular and scholarly accounts suggest. Instead, immigrant political incorporation is best understood by focusing on civic institutions, such as political parties and advocacy organizations, and their capacity to mobilize immigrants. The book examines shifts in the American institutional landscape and how these changes affect Asian and Latino immigrants' political participation and mobilization. Another of my primary research interests is Asian American Politics. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, and their role in the American political system compels one to reconsider understandings of race and politics based upon the traditional black-white binary. I am a co-author of The Politics of Asian Americans: Community and Diversity (2004, Routledge). The book is based upon analysis of the first multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-city survey of Asian Americans' political attitudes and behavior. In the book, we show that much of the prevailing wisdom about Asian Americans - that they are ideologically Conservative, Republican-leaning, insular, and politically apathetic - is just plain wrong. In journal articles based on the survey published in American Politics Research and Social Science Quarterly, my co-authors and I show that while clear differences exist between the distinct national-origin groups that constitute the Asian American community, racial identity, experiences with discrimination, and shared policy attitudes do provide the critical foundation for a meaningful, though fragile, Asian American voting bloc. My current research is on immigration, religion, and conservative politics in the United States. Many scholars contend that religious organizations constitute important institutions for encouraging community bonds and civic engagement for the general population as well as for minority groups. Their roles may be especially critical for contemporary Asian and Latino immigrants and their children, given that there are few institutions or public policies that explicitly mobilize these groups on a mass level. Even as the prominence of religion in politics has exploded, the process by which religious institutions affect the substantive policy positions and political behavior of immigrants and their children, or how their influence may affect public support for controversial public policies, remains unclear. Furthermore, the question of how these groups may transform traditional political coalitions is unresolved.
 

Education

B.A. (1995) University of California, Los Angeles; M.A. (1998) Political Science, Yale University; Ph.D. (2001) Political Science, Yale University
 

Subjects

Immigration,Race Issues
 

Experience

Assistant Professor of Political Science and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California
 

Expertise

Racial politics in the United States; Asian American politics; immigrants in the United States; political participation and mobilization; public opinion

Project Summary

The role of contemporary conservative Protestants in American political life received unprecedented attention after the 2004 Presidential election. But while it was widely reported that Bush's victory was secured with the votes of conservative, church-going Christians, the extent to which demographic changes within that group may lead to unanticipated future voting patterns has been largely ignored. A growing number of Asian and Latin American immigrants and their children fill the pews of U.S. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. It is widely assumed that these groups will contribute to the political power of conservative Christians. This study, however, questions the assumption that they will have a predictable role and argues that their presence may fracture a coalition that is already more diverse than popular perceptions acknowledge.

Major Publications

  • Democracy's Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions (University of Michigan Press, 2006)
  • The Politics of Asian America: Diversity and Community, coeditor with Pei-te Lien and M. Margaret Conway, (Routledge, 2004)
  • "Mobilizing Asian Americans: A Field Experiment" Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 601(September):102-114, 2005

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