Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Jonathan Winburn

Second Advisor

Kirk Johnson

Third Advisor

Marvin King

Relational Format



Scholars examining black political representation have focused on the degree to which African American politicians can impact the everyday living conditions of African Americans. Despite years of African American political representation within the United States House of Representatives, political scientists have devoted very little scholarship to examining how whites react to African American leadership. Given that African Americans remain under represented in government and current legal challenges threaten the future of minority majority districts, it is important to gain better insight into how black representation might impact the white community. Prior studies that do examine how whites react to African American political representation have only focused on state and local elections leaving scholars to speculate if the findings of those analyses are applicable to congressional and presidential elections. Previous studies at the local level suggest that African American political representation has the potential to facilitate racial learning and therefore improve white racial attitudes, policy preferences for race-targeted legislation, vote choice, and candidate evaluation. Utilizing a representative sample of whites residing in congressional districts represented by an African American from the 2010 and 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, this dissertation challenges the findings that suggest that black political representation positively impacts white racial attitudes, policy preferences, and vote choice of whites. The findings of this dissertation suggest that black political representation at the congressional level does not facilitate improvements in the areas of racial resentment, white policy preferences, or vote choice at the congressional level. In fact the evidence presented in this dissertation suggest that the longer whites live under African American congressional representation, the more they become racially resentful. The data finds that whites who are represented in congress by an African American were less likely to approve of the job performance of their incumbent representatives and were even less likely to indicate electoral support for African American congressional incumbents. The evidence presented in this dissertation also suggests that racial resentment had an even stronger impact on presidential vote choice in 2012 than it did in 2008.



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