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What Makes a Good Neighbor? Race, Place, and Norms of Political Participation


Social norms are thought to motivate behaviors like political participation, but context should influence both the content and activation of these norms. I show that both race and neighborhood context moderate the social value of political participation in the United States. Using original survey data and a survey experiment, I find that Whites, Blacks, and Latinos not only conceptualize participation differently, but also asymmetrically reward those who are politically active, with minority Americans often providing more social incentives for participation than Whites. I combine this survey data with geographic demography from the American Community Survey and find that neighborhood characteristics outpace individual-level indicators in predicting the social value of political participation. The findings suggest that scholars of political behavior should consider race, place, and social norms when seeking to understand participation in an increasingly diverse America.

Corresponding author
Allison P. Anoll is an Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University, 230 Appleton Pl., PMB 505, Nashville, TN 37203 (
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I am grateful to Gary Segura, Justin Grimmer, Douglas McAdam, Cindy Kam, Efrén Pérez, Josh Clinton, and Larry Bartels for detailed feedback on this paper at multiple stages. I am thankful for helpful comments from anonymous reviewers, editors, Vanderbilt faculty, Stanford faculty and seminar participants, commenters at the APSA 2015 Annual Meeting, and scholars at Carlton College, Williams College, University of Rochester, Florida State University, and Harvard University, where I presented this project. An earlier version of this paper was circulated under the title, “How Race and Community Affect Norms of Political Action in America.” Data collection was generously supported by Stanford’s Laboratory for the Study of American Values, the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Stanford University, Kyle Dropp, and Gary Segura. Replication files can be found on the American Political Science Review Dataverse:

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