Black Votes Count, But Do They Matter? Symbolic Empowerment and the Jackson-Obama Mobilizing Effect on Gender and Age Cohorts

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Using data from the 1984–1988 National Black Election Studies as well as the 2008 and 2012 American National Election Studies, we provide a comprehensive study of African American political behavior with support for Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson serving as explanatory variables alongside other sources of variation—gender and age cohorts. Results show that African American voters who preferred Jackson and Obama in the 1984 and 2008 Democratic nominating contests were more likely to proselytize, attend a campaign rally or political meeting, donate money, and wear a campaign button. While opposition to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, church membership, involvement in Black political organizations were also linked to behavior, racial group identification (linked fate) had a less consistent effect. Both Obama’s candidacy like that of Jackson’s had an empowering effect on African American women—particularly, those of the civil rights generation—as was the case for Obama supporters of a younger cohort.

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American Politics Research



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