Releasing the Fetters: Parties and the Mobilization of the African-American Electorate



One of the most important functions of political parties is mobilizing the electorate during campaigns in order to help the party and its candidates win elections. To this end, the parties seek out particular types of potential voters, and this research assesses the efforts of the parties to mobilize African-Americans. Using the 1952–96 American National Election Studies and the 1996 National Black Election Study, I examine long-term patterns of party canvassing, bivariate effects of the party canvass on voting rates, and effects of the parties' activities on black voters in 1996. The findings show that the overall contacting rate of blacks is lower than the group's representation in the voting age population (VAP), the Democratic contacting rate is comparable, and the Republican rate is about one-third the VAP proportion. Contacting patterns and effects are related to respondents' integration into local political and religious networks and are statistically and substantively important stimulants of voting compared with other factors, such as mobilizing churches, partisanship, and education.