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African American Turnout and African American Candidates

  • Luke J. Keele and Ismail K. White

Do minority voters respond to co-racial or co-ethnic candidates? That is does the increased chance of substantive representation translate into increased participation? Here, we focus on this question among African American voters. While much of the empirical literature on this question has produced conflicting answers, recent studies suggest that minority candidates can significantly increase minority turnout. We argue that past work on this topic does not adequately account for the fact that minority voters in places with minority candidates may systematically differ in their level of participation than minority voters in places without minority candidates. In this study we address the weaknesses of previous research designs and offer a new design that exploits the redistricting process to gain additional leverage over this question. We find little evidence that African American voter turnout increases when voters are moved to African American candidates. We find some evidence that white voters, however, tend to vote at lower rates when they are represented by African American candidates.

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Luke J. Keele is an Associate Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy and Department of Government, Georgetown University, 304 Old North, 37th & O St NW, Washington, DC 20057 ( Ismail K. White is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, George Washington University, Monroe Hall, Washington, DC 20052 ( A previous version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, WA, 2011. The authors thank Jas Sekhon, Rocío Titiunik, Don Green, Walter Mebane, Jonathan Nagler, Vince Hutchings, Neil Malhotra, Marc Meredith, and seminar participants at New York University, the University of Wisconsin, Yale University, Temple University, Texas A&M University, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Ohio State University for helpful comments and discussion. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
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