British Journal of Political Science

Notes and Comments

Race, Issue Heterogeneity and Public Policy: The Republican Revolution in the 104th US Congress and the Representation of African-American Policy Interests

a1 Department of Government and International Studies, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Does the voting behaviour of African-American legislators differ significantly from their white colleagues on legislative issues of importance to the black community? This question is important for two reasons. First, the underlying premise behind creating more majority-black legislative districts is that black legislators do a better job of representing the policy interests of black constituents than do white lawmakers. 1 If this assumption is incorrect, then as one scholar notes, efforts to advance the substantive interests of African Americans through racial redistricting ‘would appear badly misdirected’ 2 Even if the assumption is correct, the question also arises as to whether the importance associated with race is altered when it comes to specific types of legislative issues. Perhaps race matters not only for the policy representation of black interests, but also for whether or not the proposed legislation is disproportionately (dis)advantageous for African Americans compared to the general population.


a An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, 1998. We wish to thank Michael Cobb, Jim Garand, Dan Sabia, Robin Wolpert and American Politics Seminar participants at the University of South Carolina for providing valuable comments on earlier versions. We also wish to acknowledge the excellent research assistance provided by Lakisha Fields and Sharon Pearson. Statistical analysis was conducted using STATA (version 5). Data and documentation used in this analysis can be obtained by contacting the second author. Any errors that remain are the responsibility of the authors.

1 Charles Cameron, David Epstein and Sharyn O'Halloran, ‘Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?’ American Political Science Review, 90 (1996), 794–812; Richard L. Hall and Colleen Heflin, ‘The Importance of Color in Congress: Members and the Representation of Race and Ethnicity in the US House’ (unpublished paper, University of Michigan, 1994); David I. Lublin, The Paradox of Minority Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997); Kenny J. Whitby, The Color of Representation: Congressional Behavior and Black Interests (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997).

2 Richard L. Hall, Participation in Congress (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 191.