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The Obama effect? Race, first-time voting, and future participation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2023

Jacob R. Brown*
Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA


Did the 2008 United States presidential election produce stronger future mobilization for Blacks than non-Blacks? First-time voting influences long-term political behavior, but do minority voters see the most powerful effects when the formative election is tied to their group's political empowerment? I test this hypothesis in the context of the election of the first Black president in United States history, using voting eligibility discontinuities to identify the effect of voting in 2008 on future voting for Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites. Voting in 2008 caused a greater increase in the likelihood of voting in 2010 for Blacks than for other new voters, but there is no evidence of a sustained mobilizing advantage in subsequent elections. Furthermore, 2008 was not a unique formative voting experience for new Black voters, but rather produced similar effects on future voting as other presidential elections. These results signal that group political empowerment does not drive habitual voting.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the European Political Science Association

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