Objective. Past research has demonstrated that Americans view poverty in racial terms, and that they often blame the poor for their situation. This article's objective is to determine if local contexts can influence these views.
Methods. Synthesizing racial and political theories of contextual effects, I use two nationally representative surveys to explore Americans' explanations for poverty.
Results. People living in areas where the poor are mostly white are less likely to attribute poverty to the failings of the poor themselves, as theories of racial threat would predict. However, a second finding is stronger: the percentage of the county that voted Republican in the last election consistently predicts less structural and more individualistic explanations of poverty.
Conclusions. Local processes of partisan reinforcement play a key role in shaping explanations of poverty.