White Residents, Black Incumbents, and a Declining Racial Divide

White Residents, Black Incumbents, and a Declining Racial Divide

By Zoltan L. Hajnal, University of California, San Diego

Despite the hopes of the civil rights movement, researchers have found that the election of African Americans to office has not greatly improved the well-being of the black community. This study focuses on the white community, however, and finds that black leadership can have a profound effect. Under black mayors there is positive change in the white vote and in the racial sentiments expressed by members of the white electorate. Although white Republicans seem largely immune to the effects of black incumbency, for Democrats and independents an experience with a black mayoralty tends to decrease racial tension, increase racial sympathy, and increase support of black leadership.