Black Opinion on the Legitimacy of Racial Redistricting and Minority-Majority Districts
Minority–majority districts are highly controversial. To assess the degree to which black positions on this controversial matter were well-thought-out and fixed, questions based on Sniderman and Piazza's (1993) “counterargument” technique were included in the 1996 National Black Election Study. Black opinion instability on the issue of race and redistricting reveals the complexity of mass attitudes and the reasoning process and reflects the manner in which a set of clashing interests and core values is balanced and prioritized. Although a large majority of blacks voiced initial opposition to creating districts where blacks and Hispanics are the voting majority, most blacks changed their position in response to the counterargument. This asymmetry suggests that blacks more strongly favor the goal of increasing minority representation than the principle of color blindness in Congressional redistricting. Education and racial identification are key predictors of black opinion on racial redistricting. Less educated blacks and weak racial identifiers were less supportive of minority-majority districts and racial redistricting practices. These results support the revisionist perspective among public opinion scholars that rational, thinking individuals can hold wavering opinions upon questioning because they generally encapsulate a set of contradictory values and interests.
The research reported in this paper was funded by grants to the author from the National Science Foundation POWRE Program (SBR-9743928) and from the National Science Foundation's Political Science Division (SBR-9796212). An earlier version was presented at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, August 31–September 3, 2000. The author thanks Luis Fraga at Stanford University for his comments as the panel's discussant, as well as the APSR Editor, Lee Sigelman, and reviewers for their contributions to this paper. I also thank Bruce Boyd at Computing Services at UCI and Gary King at Harvard University for their technical assistance.