Black incumbents, White districts: An appraisal of the 1996 congressional elections

D. Stephen Voss, David Lublin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


This article explores the controversial 1996 success of three African American incumbents (Sanford Bishop and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and Corrine Brown of Florida) who lost their majority-Black southern congressional districts to Supreme Court decisions. Using aggregate electoral data and Gary King's solution to the ecological inference problem, we gauge (a) the extent of bias against Black candidates, (b) the extent of backlash against Black voters, and (c) the extent to which incumbency explains away the Georgia victories. The findings are compatible with neither a full attack on racial redistricting nor a defense of it. Southern Whites do not exhibit either consistent bias against Black candidates or backlash against Black voters, but racial polarization is nonetheless evident and dispersed in a geographically systematic manner. Barriers against Black representation are still strong, but they are not the electoral barriers that civil rights activists assume when they embrace majority-minority districts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-182
Number of pages42
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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