Would You Vote for Colin Powell?

White Support for a Not Quite Colorless Black Candidate


  • April Gresham
  • Robert Maranto




Sigelman et al (1995), Williams (1990), and Sonenshein (1990) find that whites stereotype African-American candidates as less competent and more liberal than white candidates. Yet increasing numbers of African-Americans win election in white constituencies. We used a natural experiment, the media boom for a Colin Powell presidential bid in 1994, to test the degree to which various race-related attitudes affected Powell support among white voters. We conducted a phone survey of 350 white Pennsylvania residents from June to November 1994. Powell had as much support as any Republican. Powell support was unrelated to conservatism, party, and affirmative action. For Democrats, Powell support was related to attitudes toward NAFTA and immigration. For Republicans, Powell support was related to authoritarianism and populism. We conclude with speculation about future directions for research.