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: 7
Total number of PDF views: 44 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 422 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.