Racial Inequality in Retrospective Voting

28 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by Patrick Flavin

Patrick Flavin

Baylor University

Michael Hartney

University of Notre Dame

Date Written: 2014


An important yet overlooked component of retrospective voting theory is the extent to which it may exacerbate existing inequalities if the outcomes for some groups of citizens are given greater attention than others when voters make their decisions at the ballot box. We investigate whether there is racial inequality in retrospective voting by evaluating the relationship between white and racial minority student achievement and the vote share of incumbent school board members seeking reelection. Analyzing election data from California for 2004-2010, we find evidence that voters reward or punish incumbent officeholders based on how well or poorly white students are faring while, in contrast, the achievement levels of African American and Hispanic students receive comparatively little attention. We then engage in a preliminary analysis to identify possible mechanisms driving these results and report survey data that indicates nearly half of Americans are not aware of the disparities in educational achievement between white and racial minority students and, among those who are aware, the vast majority believe the disparities are caused by factors outside of schools’ (and, by extension, school board members’) control.

Keywords: racial inequality, voting behavior, education achievement gap

Suggested Citation

Flavin, Patrick and Hartney, Michael, Racial Inequality in Retrospective Voting (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2452592

Patrick Flavin (Contact Author)

Baylor University ( email )

Department of Political Science
One Bear Place #97276
Waco, TX 76798
United States

HOME PAGE: http://blogs.baylor.edu/patrick_j_flavin/

Michael Hartney

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

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