Racial Threat or Racial Contact? How Race Affected Third-Party Presidential Voting in the Antebellum North


  • *Direct correspondence to Adam Chamberlain, Coastal Carolina University, PO Box 261954, Conway, SC 29528. I thank Thomas Carsey and Jon Kropko for advice on earlier drafts of this article. Data and an explanation of the coding are available upon request.


Objective. In this study, the “racial threat” and “racial contact” hypotheses are evaluated in relation to voting for the Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the North during the 1840s.

Methods. Regression models are used to predict the effect of county-level black populations on Liberty and Free Soil vote percentages in relation to types of employment.

Results. Racial threat occurred in high manufacturing counties, but racial contact/threat emerged in more agricultural counties. The effects vary by party and region of the North.

Conclusion. The effects of racial context on political behavior during this era are mixed, much like modern political studies have uncovered.