Dr. Ocampo's current book project examines how a sense of belonging or lack of belonging to U.S. society influence political interest and engagement among Latinos. To date, there have been few inquiries that investigate perceived social belonging or lack of belonging to U.S. society and the political ramifications of these predispositions. To address this puzzle, this project develops a novel theoretical framework and original measure of perceived social inclusion to understand how feelings of membership to the broader U.S. society are at the core of the political incorporation process for racial, ethnic and religious minorities. This multi-method project relies on original survey and experimental data as well as in-depth interviews to determine (1.) what factors influence Latinos to have varying perceptions of social inclusion, and (2.) under what conditions do perceptions of inclusion or exclusion either catalyze or depress political engagement. The findings demonstrate that after accounting for demographics, socioeconomic factors, and other traditional predictors of political behavior, a sense of belonging is a unique and an independent driver of political interest and various forms of political engagement among Latinos. The results indicate that perceptions of belonging to U.S. society, as well as perceptions of respect and being valued by other Americans, are significant drivers of Latino political engagement. This project builds on existent theories of political behavior as it presents a novel framework and a new measure to understand political engagement not only among Latinos but also among other racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
A second large scale project in Dr. Ocampo's research examines the incorporation of minorities into American political institutions. Dr. Ocampo is interested in understanding the ways in which racial and ethnic minorities navigate political institutions and become elected officials. On this topic, her research investigates how electoral, institutional, and structural forces, as well as political parties and policy demanders shape the path of Latinos and members of other underrepresented communities to elected office.