Skip to main content

Similarities and Differences in Support of Minority and White Republican Candidates

  • Scott H. Huffmon (a1), H. Gibbs Knotts (a2) and Seth C. McKee (a3)

History has shown that voters tend to support candidates of their own race. This reality has proven particularly challenging for black candidates who have often had difficulty running for office in majority white electorates. However, the vast majority of research on this topic has focused on minority Democrats, not minority Republicans. In this study, we take advantage of a unique set of circumstances in South Carolina's (SC's) 2014 elections where voters had the opportunity to cast ballots for an Indian-American Republican Governor and an African-American Republican Senator. Additionally, the presence of a white Republican Senator seeking reelection provides an important comparison case for determining if there is significant variation in support of these candidates given their different racial profiles, but shared party affiliation. Using unique data from The Winthrop Poll, we find that the determinants of approving of, and voting for, minority Republican candidates, are quite similar to support for the white Republican candidate. It appears that party and ideology are foremost in guiding approval and vote choice decisions among voters in contemporary American politics. Hence, even in SC, support for minority Republicans approximates that given to a white Republican.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Seth C. McKee, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. E-mail:
Hide All
Bass, Jack, and Nelson, Jack. 1996. The Orangeburg Massacre. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.
Becker, John F., and Heaton, Eugene E. Jr. 1967. “The Election of Senator Edward W. Brooke.” Public Opinion Quarterly 31 (3): 346–58.
Bejarano, Christina, and Segura, Gary. 2007. “What Goes around, Comes around: Race, Blowback, and the Louisiana Elections of 2002 and 2003.” Political Research Quarterly 60 (2): 328–37.
Black, Earl, and Black, Merle. 2002. The Rise of Southern Republicans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bullock, Charles S., and Dunn, Richard E.. 1999. “The Demise of Racial Districting and the Future of Black Representation.” Emory Law Journal 48 (Fall): 1209–53.
Canon, David T. 1999. Race, Redistricting, and Representation: The Unintended Consequences of Black Majority Districts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Citrin, Jack, Green, Donald Philip, and Sears, David O.. 1990. “White Reactions to Black Candidates: When Does Race Matter?Public Opinion Quarterly 54 (1): 7496.
Green, John C., Kellstedt, Lyman A., Smidt, Corwin E., and Guth, James L.. 2013. The Soul of the South: Religion and Southern Politics in the New Millennium. In The New Politics of the Old South, eds. Bullock, Charles S. III and Rozell, Mark J.. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 291312.
Highton, Benjamin. 2004. “White Voters and African American Candidates for Congress.” Political Behavior 26 (1): 125.
Highton, Benjamin. 2011. “Prejudice Rivals Partisanship and Ideology When Explaining the 2008 Presidential Vote across the States.” PS: Political Science and Politics 44 (3): 530–35.
Hillygus, D. Sunshine, McKee, Seth C., and Young, McKenzie. 2015. “Reversal of Fortune: The Political Behavior of White Migrants to the South.” Manuscript.
Hood, M. V. III, Kidd, Quentin, and Morris, Irwin L.. 2015. “Race and the Tea Party in the Old Dominion: Split-Ticket Voting in the 2013 Virginia Elections.” PS: Political Science and Politics 48 (1): 107–14.
Hood, M. V. III, and McKee, Seth C.. 2010. “What Made Carolina Blue: In-Migration and the 2008 North Carolina Presidential Vote.” American Politics Research 38 (2): 266302.
Hood, M. V. III, and McKee, Seth C.. 2015. “True Colors: White Conservative Support for Minority Republican Candidates.” Public Opinion Quarterly 79 (1): 2852.
Key, V. O. Jr. 1949. Southern Politics in State and Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Kinder, Donald R., and Dale-Riddle, Allison. 2012. The End of Race? New Haven: Yale University Press.
Knuckey, Jonathan. 2010. “Beyond the Politics of Race? Explaining the Vote in Recent Louisiana Gubernatorial Elections.” Politics & Policy 38 (2): 285305.
Lublin, David. 1997. The Paradox of Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lynch, Matthew. 2012. “Before Obama: Remembering Black Reconstruction Era Politicians.” Huffington Post. (Accessed February 8, 2012).
McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2006. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
McDermott, Monika L. 1998. “Race and Gender Cues in Low-Information Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 51 (4): 895918.
McKee, Seth C., and Teigen, Jeremy M.. 2016. “The New Blue: Northern In-Migration in Southern Presidential Elections.” PS: Political Science and Politics. Forthcoming.
McKee, Seth C., and Springer, Melanie J.. 2015. “A Tale of ‘Two Souths’: White Voting Behavior in Contemporary Southern Elections.” Social Science Quarterly 96 (2): 588607.
Reeves, Keith. 1997. Voting Hopes or Fears? White Voters, Black Candidates, and Racial Politics in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schaffner, Brian F. 2011. “Racial Salience and the Obama Vote.” Political Psychology 32 (6): 963–88.
Schreckhise, William D., and Shields, Todd G.. 2003. “Ideological Realignment in the Contemporary U.S. Electorate Revisited.” Social Science Quarterly 84 (3): 596612.
Sigelman, Carol K., Sigelman, Lee, Walkosz, Barbara J., and Nitz, Michael. 1995. “Black Candidates, White Voters: Understanding Racial Bias in Political Perceptions.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (1): 243–65.
Skinner, Richard, and Klinkner, Phillip A.. 2004. “Black, White, Brown, and Cajun: The Racial Dynamics of the 2003 Louisiana Gubernatorial Election.” The Forum 2 (1): Article 3.
Skocpol, Theda, and Williamson, Vanessa. 2012. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sonenshein, Raphael J. 1990. “Can Black Candidates Win Statewide Elections?Political Science Quarterly 105 (2): 219–41.
Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. 2013. “The Cost of Racial Animus on a Black Presidential Candidate: Using Google Search Data to find what Surveys Miss.” Manuscript.
Strickland, Ruth Ann, and Whicker, Marcia Lynn. 1992. “Comparing the Wilder and Gantt Campaigns: A Model for Black Candidate Success in Statewide Elections.” PS: Political Science and Politics 25 (2): 204–12.
Terkildsen, Nayda. 1993. “When White Voters Evaluate Black Candidates: The Processing Implications of Candidate Skin Color, Prejudice, and Self-Monitoring.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (4): 1032–53.
Tesler, Michael, and Sears, David O.. 2010. Obama's Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Theriault, Sean M., and Rohde, David W.. 2011. “The Gingrich Senators and Party Polarization in the U.S. Senate.” Journal of Politics 73 (4): 1011–24.
Traugott, Michael W., and Price, Vincent. 1992. “A Review: Exit Polls in the 1989 Virginia Gubernatorial Race: Where Did They Go Wrong?Public Opinion Quarterly 56 (2): 245–53.
White, Steven. 2014. “The Heterogeneity of Southern White Distinctiveness.” American Politics Research 42 (4): 551–78.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2056-6085
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-race-ethnicity-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



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