Political Behavior

, 28:129 | Cite as

“Racial Threat”, Partisan Climate, and Direct Democracy: Contextual Effects in Three California Initiatives

Original Paper


Does context—racial, economic, fiscal, and political—affect whites’ votes on racially-related ballot propositions? We examine non-Hispanic whites’ voting behavior on three California ballot initiatives: Propositions 187, 209, and 227. Unlike previous analyses that lacked individual-level data and were therefore limited to ecological inference, we combine individual-level data from exit polls with county-level contextual variables in a hierarchical linear model. Racial/ethnic context affected whites’ votes only on Proposition 187, economic context had no influence on vote choice, and the effect of fiscal context was limited to Proposition 227. However, across the propositions, whites’ decisions were shaped by their political context. Thus, we do not find support for the “racial threat” hypothesis across all racially-charged issues.


Context effects Racial threat Direct democracy Multi-level modeling California politics 



The authors thank Jake Bowers, Claudine Gay, the editors, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Louise Campbell
    • 1
  • Cara Wong
    • 2
  • Jack Citrin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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