Reexamining Minority Turnout

On Monday the US Supreme Court threw out two of North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional districts. As we ponder the implications of their decision on minority voter participation, it may be useful to consider an article in last month’s American Journal of Political Science on that very subject.  

Dr. Bernard Fraga from Indiana University studied minority turnout in almost 3,000 congressional primary and general elections (2006 to 2010) and offered many observations, among them: 

1) The percentage of minority voters in a district has a much bigger impact on minority voter turnout than the race of the candidate--for example, black voter general election turnout averages about nine points higher in a 50% black district than in a 10% black district, regardless of the race of the candidates. The boost for Latinos is 6.4% in general elections.  

2) Candidates’ ethnicities still have an impact, particularly on white voters: white turnout averages seven percent lower when there is no white candidate in the race. 

3) White Republicans are more likely to stay home when residing in districts with few minority citizens. 

The first point above may be partially explained by the economics of field programs--the more geographically concentrated the targeted audience, the more doors knocked per canvassing hour. But the relationship between minority concentration and turnout is not linear--the author presents competing theories to explain but, in the end, calls for more research. In the meantime, we practitioners in 2016 confronting an “enthusiasm deficit” among minority voters would be well served to look at the minority VAP ratios in targeted districts when prioritizing statewide canvassing efforts. 

As to the latter two points we cite, freshman South Carolina GOP Senator Tim Scott may find himself in a tougher than expected reelection fight if he were to draw a Democratic opponent with a respectable war chest. 

We encourage you to read the article by clicking here for additional insights too numerous to mention in today’s email. And we offer our apologies to Dr. Fraga for any oversimplifications we’ve made to his exhaustive research.   

And as always, we invite you to join our voter research conversation on social media with #chismstrat.

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