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Title: White Voters' Responses to African American Candidates for High-Profile Statewide Offices
Authors: Tokeshi, Matthew
Advisors: Mendelberg, Tali
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: communication
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The representation of racial minorities in many domains of American life has become a salient issue in recent years. My dissertation focuses on African American representation at the highest levels of American politics, particularly the powerful and prestigious statewide offices of governor and U.S. senator. Although African Americans have succeeded in winning at lower levels of office, the color barrier for governor and senator still stands in 45 out of 50 states. Why are African American governors and senators still so rare? Although the answer to this question is complex, I point to one likely factor: the continuing relevance of racial appeals in U.S. campaigns. Using a content analysis of newspapers in four states, two original experiments, and survey data collected in real-time during actual campaigns, I find that 1) African American candidates are attacked more often on themes that evoke racial stereotypes such as crime, sex, and economic dependency than comparable white candidates running in the same state around the same time period; 2) attacks on these themes diminish their support among whites with ambivalent or outright negative attitudes toward African Americans – a wide swath of voters in statewide elections; 3) attacked candidates use a variety of rebuttal strategies to respond to these attacks; 4) rebuttals help the attacked candidate stop, and in some cases, reverse the loss of white support following the attack, particularly among racially sympathetic whites; 5) when I systematically analyze each strategy, I find that rebutting attacks by calling attention to their racial nature does not improve evaluations of an African American candidate, but serves an identical white candidate quite well; 6) a number of other rebuttal types, such as offering a credible justification for the attacked action, restore the favorability ratings of African American candidates, even among whites with high levels of anti-black affect. Together, these analyses demonstrate that although African American candidates are constrained, they can nevertheless find effective ways to respond to attacks that they are likely to encounter when attempting to reach the highest offices in America.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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