Racial cleavages in political interest
Political interest (the degree to which citizens profess awareness of, are curious
about, or pay attention to politics) is an essential topic in the study of democratic
participation; however, many assumptions about political interest remain unexamined.
Some of these assumptions deal with the impact of race on interest in politics.
One way to study the e¤ect of race is to observe di¤erences in expressions of political
interest among racial groups. This dissertation, therefore, uses public opinion surveys
to compare the level of political interest between African Americans (or “Blacks”) and
Anglo-Americans (or “Whites”). First, my research considers the conceptualization
and measurement of political interest. Second, I analyze the impact of race on political
interest as a dependent variable. Finally, my dissertation examines interest in
politics as a racialized independent variable predicting political action.
The results from the analyses point to intriguing racial di¤erences in political
interest. Chapter 2 examines the e¤ect of subtle changes in questionnaire design on
the interpretation of political interest over time. I …nd that such changes do not
bias interest trends as much as the experimental literature suggests, and I devote the
remainder of my dissertation to examining racial di¤erences in the amount of political
interest shown by Blacks and Whites. By analyzing interest levels over time, Chapter
3 reveals that Whites tend to be more interested in politics than Blacks are. This
racial gap in political interest is attributable to societal-level shifts in racial tolerance.
In Chapter 4, I study the interaction of race and political interest and its e¤ect on
political behavior. I …nd that race determines the strength of the relationship between
political interest and political participation. Speci…cally, the link between interest and
participation is stronger for Whites than it is for Blacks. Chapter 5 concludes the
dissertation by discussing the implications of these …ndings for our understanding
of race as a central concept in American politics, for the future of political interest
scholarship, and for contemporary debates over how best to mobilize an allegedly
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:blacks whites race political participation
Date of Publication: