Skip to main content Accessibility help

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 (


Hide All

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:



Hide All
Anoll, Allison. 2014. “Racial Differences in the Socioeconomic-Participation Relationship.” Midwest Political Science Association, Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL. Accessed on April 3–6, 2014.
Ansolabehere, Stephen, and Hersh, Eitan. 2013. “Gender, Race, Age, and Voting: A Research Note.” Politics and Governance 1 (2): 132–37.
Asch, Solomon E. 1955. “Opinions and Social Pressure.”Scientific American 193: 3155.
Barber, Michael, and Imai, Kosuke. 2014. “Estimating Neighborhood Effects on Turnout from Geo-Coded Voter Registration Records.” Princeton, NJ: Mimeo.
Barreto, Matt A., Manzano, Sylvia, Ramírez, Ricardo, and Rim, Kathy. 2009. “Mobilization, Participation, and Solidaridad: Latino Participation in the 2006 Immigration Protest Rallies.” Urban Affairs Review 44 (5): 736–64.
Barreto, Matt A., and Segura, Gary M.. 2009. “Estimating the Effects of Traditional Predictors, Group Specific Forces, and Anti-Black Affect on 2008 Presidential Vote Among Latinos and Non-Hispanic Whites.” Ohio State University Conference on the 2008 Election, Columbus, OH.
Beltrán, Cristina. 2010. The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Benmayor, Rina, Torruellas, Rosa M., and Juarbe, Ana L.. 1997. “Claiming Cultural Citizenship in East Harlem: ‘Si Esto Puede Ayudar a la Comunidad Mía. . .”’ In Latino Cultural Citizenship: Claiming Identity, Space, and Rights, eds. Flores, William V. and Benmayor, Rina. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 152209.
Butler, Daniel, and Broockman, David. 2011. “Do Politicians Racially Discriminate Against Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 463477.
Byron, Kristin, and Baldridge, David C.. 2007. “E-Mail Recipients’ Impressions of Senders’ Likability: The Interactive Effect of Nonverbal Cues and Recipients Personality.” Journal of Business Communication 44 (2): 137–60.
Chow, Shein-Chung, and Liu, Jen-Pei. 1999. Design and Analysis of Bioavailibility and Bioequivalence Studies, 2nd ed. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
Cialdini, Robert B., Kallgren, Carl A., and Reno, Raymond R.. 1991. “A Focus Theory of Normative Conduct: A Theoretical Refinement and Reevaluation of the Role of Norms in Human Behavior.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 21: 201–35.
Cialdini, Robert B., and Trost, Melanie R.. 1998. “Social Influence, Social Norms, Conformity, Compliance.” In Handbook of Psychology, 4th ed., eds. Gilbert, Daniel, Fiske, Susan, and Lindzey, Gardner. New York: McGraw-Hill, 151–92.
Citrin, Jack, Lerman, Amy, Murakami, Michael, and Pearson, Kathryn. 2007. “Testing Huntington: Is Hispanic Immigration a Threat to American Identity?Perspectives on Politics 5 (1): 3148.
Crandall, Christian S. 1988. “Social Contagion of Binge Eating.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 55 (4): 588–98.
Darley, John M., and Batson, Daniel. 1973. “’From Jerusalem to Jericho’: A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27 (1): 100–8.
Dàvila, Arlene. 2012. Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Dawson, Michael. 1994. Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Dawson, Michael. 2001. Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
DeSante, Christopher D., and Perry, Brittany N.. 2016. “Bridging the Gap: How Geographic Context Affects Political Knowledge Among Citizen and Non-Citizen Latinos.” American Politics Research 44 (3): 548–77.
Dougherty, Kevin D. 2003. “How Monochromatic Is Church Membership? Racial-Ethnic Diversity in Religious Community.” Sociology of Religion 64 (1): 6585.
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper.
Enos, Ryan D., Kaufman, Aaron Russell, and Sands, Melissa L.. 2016. “Can Violent Protest Change Local Policy Support? Evidence from the Aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles Riot.” Urban Political Economy Conference, Vanderbilt University, March 17-18, 2017.
Flores, William V., and Benymayor, Rina. 1997. “Constructing Cultural Citizenship.” In Latino Cultural Citizenship: Claiming Identity, Space, and Rights, eds. Flores, William V., and Benmayor, Rina. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 123.
Fraga, Bernard. 2016. “Candidates or Districts? Reevaluating the Role of Race on Voter Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 60 (1): 97122.
Fryer, Roland G., and Torelli, Paul. 2010. “An Empirical Analysis of ‘Acting White.’Journal of Public Economics 94 (5-6): 380–96.
Gardner, Amy, Thompson, Krissah, and Rucker, Philip. 2010. “Beck, Palin Tell Thousands to ‘Restore America’.” The Washington Post, August 29, 2010.
Gelman, Andrew, and Hill, Jennifer. 2007. Data Analysis Using Regression and Multi-level/Hierarchical Models. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P., and Larimer, Christopher W.. 2008. “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment.” American Political Science Review 102 (1): 3347.
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David, and Dowling, Conor. 2016. “Why People Vote: Estimating the Social Returns of Voting.” British Journal of Political Science 46 (2): 241–64.
Gerber, Alan S., and Rogers, Todd. 2009. “Descriptive Social Norms and Motivation to Vote: Everybody’s Voting and So Should You.” The Journal of Politics 71 (1): 178–91.
Gillion, Daniel Q. 2013. The Political Power of Protest: Minority Activism and Shifts in Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hamilton, David L., and Fallot, Roger D.. 1974. “Information Salience as a Weighting Factor in Impression Formation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 30 (4): 444–8.
Haney-Lopez, Ian F. 1997. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York: New York University.
Harris-Lacewell, Melissa Victoria. 2004. Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Black Talk and the Development of Black Political Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hauser, Robert M., and Warren, John Robert. 1997. “Socioeconomic Indexes for Occupations: A Review, Update, Critique.” Sociological Methodology 27 (1): 177298.
Hochschild, Jennifer L., Weaver, Vesla M., and Burch, Traci R.. 2012. Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hogan, Wesley C. 2007. Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.
Hogg, Michael. 2003. “Intergroup Relations.” In Handbook of Social Psychology, ed. Delamater, John. New York: Kluwer/Plenum, 479501.
Holland, Paul W. 1986. ”Statistics and Causal Inference.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 81 (396): 945–60.
Huntington, Samuel P. 2004. Who Are We? The Challenges to America?s National Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hutchens, Robert. 2001. “Numerical Measures of Segregation: Desirable Properties and Their Implications.” Mathematical Social Sciences 42: 1329.
Jiménez, Tomás R. 2010. Replenished Ethnicity: Mexican Americans, Immigration, and Identity. Berkeley, CA: University of Berkeley Press.
Jones, Nicholas A., and Bullock, Jungmiwha. 2012. “The Two or More Races Population: 2010.” United States Census Bureau, September, 2012.
Katznelson, Ira. 2005. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Keyssar, Alexander. 2000. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.” New York: Basic Books.
King, Gary, and Zeng, Langche. 2006. “The Dangers of Extreme Counterfactuals.” Political Analysis 14 (2): 131–51.
Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Cohn, D’Vera. 2014. “U.S. Census Looking at Big Changes In How It Asks about Race and Ethnicity.” Pew Research Center.
Larson, Jennifer M., and Lewis, Janet I.. 2017. “Ethnic Networks.” American Journal of Political Science 6 (2): 350–64.
Lawler, Edward J., Ridgeway, Cecilia, and Markovsky, Barry. 1993. “Structural Social Psychology and the Micro-Macro Problem.” Sociological Theory 11 (3): 268–90.
Lerman, Amy, and Weaver, Vesla. 2014. Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Limbaugh, Rush. 2010. “Transcript: NFL’s ‘Futbol Americano’ Telecast is a Symptom of What Ails America.”
Lofquist, Daphne, Lugaila, Terry, O’Connell, Martin, and Feliz, Sarah. 2012. “Households and Families: 2010.” United States Census Bureau.
Logan, John R. 2011. “Separate and Unequal: The Neighborhood Gap for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in Metropolitan America.” Census Brief prepared for Project US2010.
Logan, John R., Stowell, Jacob, and Oakley, Deidre. 2002. “Choosing Segregation: Racial Imbalance in American Public Schools, 1990-2000.” Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research, University of Albany, NY.
Logan, John R., and Stults, Brian J.. 2011. “The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census.” Census Brief prepared for Project US2010.
Madison, James. [1787] 2004. “Federalist No. 10.” In The Federalist Papers. New York: Pocket Books.
Masuoka, Natalie, and Junn, Jane. 2013. The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion, and Immigration. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
McAdam, Douglas. 1988. Freedom Summer. New York: Oxford University Press.
McClendon, Gwyneth H. 2014. “Social Esteem and Participation in Contentious Politics: A Field Experiment at an LGBT Pride Rally.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (2): 279–90.
McKenzie, Brian D. 2004. “Religious Social Networks, Indirect Mobilization, and African-American Political Participation.” Political Research Quarterly 57 (4): 621–32.
McPherson, Miller, Smith-Lovin, Lynn, and Cook, James M.. 2001. “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks.” Annual Review of Sociology 27: 415–44.
Michelson, Melissa. 2003. “The Corrosive Effect of Acculturation: How Mexican Americans Lose Political Trust.” Social Science Quarterly 84 (4): 918–33.
Minnesota Population Center. 2011. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Database. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota. Accessed on March 8, 2015.
Mummolo, Jonathan, and Nall, Clayton. 2016. “Why Partisans Do Not Sort: The Constraints on Political Segregation.” The Journal of Politics 79 (1): 4559.
Oliver, J. Eric. 2010. The Paradoxes of Integration: Race, Neighborhood, and Civic Life in Multiethnic America. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Omi, Michael, and Winant, Howard. 1994. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Paluck, Elizabeth L., and Green, Donald P.. 2009. “Deference, Dissent, and Dispute Resolution: A Field Experiment on a Mass Media Intervention in Rwanda.” American Political Science Review 103 (4): 622–44.
Panagopoulos, Costas. 2010. “Affect, Social Pressure and Prosocial Motivation: Field Experimental Evidence of the Mobilizing Effects of Pride, Shame and Publicizing Voting Behavior.” Political Behavior 32 (3): 369–86.
Pantoja, Adrian, Ramirez, Ricardo, and Segura, Gary. 2001. “Citizens by Choice, Voters by Necessity: Patterns in Political Mobilization by Naturalized Latino.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (4): 729–50.
Reardon, Sean F., and Owens, Ann. 2014. “60 Years After Brown: Trends and Consequences of School Segregation.” Annual Review of Sociology 40: 199218.
Reardon, Sean R., Yun, John T., and Eitle, Tamela McNulty. 2000. “The Changing Structure of School Segregation: Measurement and Evidence of Multiracial Metropolitan-Area School Segregation, 1989–1995.” Demography 37 (3): 351–64.
Ridgeway, Cecila, and Correll, Shelley. 2006. “Consensus and the Creation of Status Beliefs.” Social Forces 85 (1): 431–53.
Rogers, Todd, Fox, Craig R., and Gerber, Alan S.. 2013. “Rethinking Why People Vote.” In The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy, ed. Shafir, Eldar. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 91107.
Rubin, Donald B. 1974. “Estimating Causal Effects of Treatments in Randomized and Nonrandomized Studies.” Journal of Educational Psychology 66 (5): 688701.
Salisbury, Robert H. 1969. “An Exchange Theory of Interest Groups.” Midwest Journal of Political Science 13 (1): 132.
Schwartz, Shalom H. 1977. “Normative Influence on Altruism.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 10, ed. Berkowitz, Leonard. New York: Academic Press, 221–79.
Segura, Gary. 2006. “Symposium Introduction: Immigration and National Identity.” Perspectives on Politics 4 (2): 227–78.
Sen, Maya, and Wasow, Omar. 2016. “Race as a ’Bundle of Sticks’: Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics.” Annual Review of Political Science 19: 499522.
Sherif, M. 1936. The Psychology of Social Norms. New York: Harper.
Sinclair, Betsy. 2012. The Social Citizen: Peer Networks and Political Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Snyder, Mark, and Haugen, Julie A.. 1994. “Why Does Behavioral Confirmation Occur? A Functional Perspective on the Role of the Perceiver.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 30: 218–46.
Stolle, Dietlind, Soroka, Stuart, and Johnston, Richard. 2008. “When Does Diversity Erode Trust? Neighborhood Diversity, Interpersonal Trust and the Mediating Effect of Social Interactions.” Political Studies 56 (1): 5775.
Takaki, Ronald. 2008. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
Tankard, Margaret E., and Paluck, Elizabeth Levy. 2016. “Norm Perception as a Vehicle for Social Change.” Social Issues and Policy Review 10 (1): 181211.
Taylor, Paul, Lopez, Mark Hugo, Martínez, Jessica, and Velasco, Gabriel. 2012. “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity.” Pew Charitable Trust: Hispanic Trends Project, April 4, 2012.
Taylor, Paul, Morin, Rich, Cohn, D’Vera, and Wang, Wendy. 2008. “American Mobility: Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?” Pew Research Center.
Uggen, Christopher, Shannon, Sarah, and Manza, Jeff. 2012. “State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010.” The Sentencing Project.
Uhlaner, Carole J., Cain, Bruce E., and Kiewiet, D. Roderick. 1989. “Political Participation of Ethnic Minorities in the 1980s.” Political Behavior 11 (3): 195231.
U.S. Department of Labor. 1965. “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Office of Policy Planning and Research, March, 1965.
Velez, Yamil Ricardo, and Wong, Grace. 2017. “Assessing Contextual Measurement Strategies.” The Journal of Politics 79 (3): 1084–9.
Verba, Sidney, and Nie, Norman H.. 1972. Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality. New York: Harper and Row.
Verba, Sidney, Schlozman, Kay, and Brady, Henry. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wheaton, Sarah. 2013. “For First Time on Record, Black Voting Rate Outpaced Rate for Whites in 2012.” New York Times. Accessed on May 8, 2013.
Wilson, William Julius. 2011. “The Declining Significance of Race: Revisited and Revised.” Daedalus 140 (2): 5569.
Wolfinger, Raymond E., and Rosenstone, Steven J.. 1980. Who Votes? New Haven: Yale University Press.
Wong, David W. S. 2013. “Comparing Traditional and Spatial Segregation Measures: A Spatial Scale Perspective.” Urban Geography 25 (1): 6682.
Wong, Cara, Bowers, Jake, Williams, Tarah, and Simmons, Katherine Drake. 2012. “Bringing the Person Back In: Boundaries, Perceptions, and the Measurement of Social Context.” The Journal of Politics 74 (4): 1153–70.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Anoll supplementary material
Anoll supplementary material 1

 PDF (229 KB)
229 KB
Supplementary materials

Anoll Dataset


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



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.