D. Stephen Voss

Assistant Professor

University of Kentucky Department of Political Science

Familiarity Doesn't Breed Contempt:

The Political Geography of Racial Polarization

A thesis presented by D. Stephen Voss to the College of Arts and Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Government, Harvard University
Committee: Gary King (chair), James Alt, Brad Palmquist
Defended: February 25, 2000

Presents an intensive exploration of American racial politics, particularly the fatalistic view that polarization is greatest when two ethnic groups appear in close proximity (the "white backlash" or "group threat" hypothesis). Combining survey analysis with an ecological study of recent Southern voting returns (using Gary King's solution to the ecological inference problem), I show that the density of African-American population in a community does not influence racial views or political coalitions in a consistent manner. Rather, heterogeneity operates differently depending upon social and historical context. In particular, the traditional proximity pattern is reversed in urban areas. Predominantly white suburbs and small towns host a "white middle class" subculture generally at odds with minorities, especially when they reside close enough to appear threatening but not close enough for cultural exchange. Whites who still reside in the urban landscape, by contrast, generally are closer to the attitudes, interests, and behavior of other races or ethnic groups. The clear but complex geographical pattern nevertheless contradicts purely psychological or "symbolic" approaches to racial conflict. Racial attitudes may build on ignorance and stereotype, yet they are tied to rational group conflict, an arrangement of social forces that is politically and geographically meaningful.

Dedicated to Kathleen J. Elliott, who sacrificed much more than I did for this. Click here to see the acknowledgments.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction HTML or Adobe PDF
An Outline

PART I: Looking for Mister Backlash

Chapter 2 - Backlash Politics: Product of the Black Belt Soil Adobe PDF
The Key Hypothesis
Racial Density: An Implication Too Easily Observed
Politically Motivated Discrimination: Studying Voter Registration and Turnout

Chapter 3 - The Threat of Proximity: Variations on a Theme in V.O. Key Adobe PDF
Racial Discrimination and White Backlash
"Whitelash": The Nationalization of Southern Politics
Racial Attitudes and the White Backlash

Chapter 4 - Fear of a Black...What, Exactly? Adobe PDF
The Nature of Competition: Race Relations Through Successive Filters
The Spoils of Competition
The Role of Proximity in Southern Political Development

Chapter 5 - The Political Geography of Racial Polarization Adobe PDF
Competing Narratives: A Finalized Framework

PART II: Close But Not Touching

Chapter 6 - Voting Rights and the Ecological Inference Problem Adobe PDF
The Rise and Fall of Southern Voting Studies
The Ecological Inference Problem in Southern Data

Chapter 7 - King's EI: Breaking Apart the Southern Cross-Tab Adobe PDF
The Wallace Campaign in Louisiana
Estimating Turnout in Precinct-Level Data

Chapter 8 - The Hooded Elephant: David Duke's White Majority Adobe PDF
A New Baseline Specification
The Effect of Clumping City Data
OLS Wrong for Grouped Data
Summarizing the Critique of Giles and Buckner
Precinct-Level Analysis
The Interactive Hypotheses
Close, But Not Touching: A Regional Version of the Cultural Backlash Model
Green's Territorial Backlash Model

Chapter 9 - Black Incumbents, White Districts: A Georgia Analysis Adobe PDF
Racial Redistricting and White Backlash
A District-Level Analysis: 1992 and 1996
Searching for White Backlash in Georgia: A Precinct-Level Analysis
The Incumbency Advantage

Chapter 10 - Hunting for Old-Fashioned Racists in Kentucky Adobe PDF
Voters Should Have Known What They Were Doing
Pulling the Hood Off Kentucky's Segregationists
A Quick Test for the Backlash Pattern
Appendix 10A: A Pessimistic Approach to Estimating Underlying White Intent

Chapter 11 - The Rational Basis of 'Symbolic' Racism Adobe PDF
Race Through a Contextual Lens
Tacit Theories of Blame
The Greedy City
Now You See It, Now You Don't
Fear of a Mongol Horde?
Merit According to Whom?
Appendix 11A: Question Wording for the Kaiser Race Poll

Chapter 12 - Conclusion Adobe PDF
Bigotry and the Social Context
Beyond Dualities: The Nebulous Realm of Political Culture
Whither the Suburban Fortress?


List of Tables and Figures

Table 2-1: Backlash Studies in Southern Politics Through the 1960's 33

Table 5-1: Observable Implications of Proximity Effects 107

Table 6-1: Wallace's 1968 Louisiana Vote 118

Table 7-1: Wallace's 1968 Vote with Race Registration 133

Table 7-2: Estimating Registration Rates in 1968 134

Figure 7-1: Tomography Plot for Louisiana Registration, 1968 137

Table 7-3: Statewide 1968 Registration Estimates 141

Figure 7-2: EI's Success Estimating With Poor Data 143

Figure 7-3: Louisiana's 1968 Turnout Easier to Predict 146

Figure 7-4: Ultimate 1968 Louisiana Turnout Estimates 148

Table 7-4: Estimated 1991 Open Primary Turnout 154

Figure 7-5: County-Level Predictive Accuracy 157

Table 8-4: Observable Implications Tested by a Status-Gap Interaction 180

Figure 8-1: Effect of Urbanization on the Racial Threat Coefficient 197

Figure 8-2: White-Backlash Pattern in the North Louisiana Hills 198

Table 8-1: Beyond the Giles and Buckner Backlash Model 199

Table 8-2: Voting in Metropolitan Statistical Areas 200

Table 8-3: Aggregate Estimates of the Regional Duke Vote 201

Table 8-5: Reconciling the Interactive Hypotheses 202

Table 8-6: Developing the Cultural Backlash Approach 203

Table 9-1: The 1992 Congressional Elections in Georgia 227

Table 9-2: The 1996 Congressional Elections in Georgia & Florida 228

Table 9-3: White Voting in 1996 Statewide Elections 229

Table 9-4: White Voting in 1992 Presidential Elections 230

Table 9-5: Aggregation Bias in 1996 Turnout and Vote 231

Table 9-6: Aggregation Bias in 1992 Turnout and Vote 232

Figure 9-1: Contextual Effects on Precinct-Level White Voting 233

Figure 10-2: Indirect Bias (By Black Education Rates) 242

Figure 10-3: A Mirror-Image of the Backlash Pattern 248

Table 10-1: Incidental Black Support for Segregation, 1996 254

Table 10-2: County-Level Model of the Black Segregation Vote 255

Table 10-3: Predicting the County-Level Vote for Segregation 256

Figure 10-1: Aggregation Bias in Vote Estimates: Direct Bias (By Racial Density) 257

Table 11-1: Predicting White Theories of Blame 289

Table 11-2: CLARIFYing the Probabilities for Standard of Living 290

Table 11-3: Predicting Unfavorable Ethnic Comparisons 291

Table 11-4: CLARIFYing the Probabilities for Ethnic Comparison 292

Table 11-5: Elaborated Ethnic Comparisons 293

Table 11-6: Suburban Resentment of Urban Aid 294

Table 11-7: Admitting Racial Tensions in a Polarized Country 295

Table 11-8: Who Sees Racism? Solving a Puzzle 296

Table 11-9: Fear of Other Minorities as Well? 297

Table 11-10: Racial Conservatism on a Policy Question 298

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Thanks for visiting! My email again: dsvoss@pop.uky.edu Last updated: May 7, 2000 copyright 2000 (all rights reserved)