Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 391–410 | Cite as

Racial Composition, White Racial Attitudes, and Black Representation: Testing the Racial Threat Hypothesis in the United States Senate

  • James M. AveryEmail author
  • Jeffrey A. Fine
Original Paper


We make the case for why the racial threat hypothesis should characterize the relationship between states’ racial composition, whites’ racial attitudes, and black representation in the United States Senate. Consistent with this claim, we find that senators from states with larger percentages of African-Americans among the electorate and more racially conservative preferences among whites provide worse representation of black interests in the Senate than their counterparts. We also apply theories of congressional cross-pressures in considering how senator partisanship and region moderate the effect of white racial attitudes on black representation. Finally, consistent with the racial threat hypothesis, we show that the negative effect of white racial attitudes on the quality of black representation is stronger when state unemployment rates are higher.


Racial composition Black representation White racial attitudes Congressional cross-pressures 



The authors thank Rich Fording, Patrick Hossay, several blind reviewers, and the Editors for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Any remaining errors are the authors’ alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Richard Stockton CollegePomonaUSA
  2. 2.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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