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Political Cynicism and the Mobilization of Black Voters


  • *Direct correspondence to Priscilla L. Southwell, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403 〈〉. Data available upon request.


Objective. This article analyzes National Election Study data from the 1996 and 2000 elections in order to explain the increased turnout among blacks in recent presidential elections.

Methods. A bivariate analysis of registration and voter turnout across the races is conducted, followed by three probit models of voter turnout, including various demographic and attitudinal variables.

Results. Our findings show that more blacks were registered to vote, and more registered blacks actually voted in 2000 than in 1996. We also found that political cynicism, or distrust, appears to increase the propensity of blacks to vote, in direct contrast to the behavior of white respondents. Inefficacy has less effect on black turnout, although it depresses turnout among whites.

Conclusions. These findings underscore an important difference between racial groups with regard to the effect of attitudinal factors on voter turnout. Political cynicism can serve to mobilize blacks, while feelings of internal and external inefficacy had little effect on black turnout in these elections.