Unexpected Optimism in Recession Could Be Election Game-Changer

Findings from the Blair-Rockefeller Poll challenge long-held assumptions about the impact of the economy on political attitudes and voting behaviors, according to a new report by political scientist Todd Shields. The report, “The Economy Across Race and Region: Unemployment Fails to Dampen Positive Outlook Among African Americans and Latinos,” is available on the Blair-Rockefeller Poll website.

“While previous research suggests that high unemployment rates result in election backlash for the incumbent party, current economic conditions have not translated into negative views of the future among African Americans and Latinos wrote. He added that the findings “may require scholars and political strategists to reconsider previous approaches during the upcoming presidential election.”

Shields is available to comment before or after the October 11 Republican Poll.

The poll’s data showed that greater percentages of African Americans and Latinos reported more optimism about the future compared with Caucasians. Further, African Americans and Latinos living in the South were more optimistic than their non-Southern counterparts.

Given the poll results, Shields suggested that the GOP could find itself gaining even more support among Caucasians, both in the South and in the non-South. On the other hand, he wrote, the Democratic Party could gain greater support among African Americans and Latinos, particularly those who live in the South.


Shields’ report used data from the Blair-Rockefeller Poll, conducted in November 2010 by Knowledge Networks. The poll is a joint project of the university’s Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute of the University of Arkansas System. The full report is available at http://www.blairrockefellerpoll.com.

The Blair-Rockefeller Poll was created by political scientists Todd Shields, Pearl Ford Dowe, Angie Maxwell and Rafael Jimeno of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas. With over 3,400 respondents, the poll has a national scope as well as ample sampling of such traditionally under-polled groups as African-Americans and Latinos. Additionally, by addressing topics that have been little studied, the poll allows researchers to identify socio-cultural influences on political values throughout the country with an emphasis on the South. The Blair Center partners with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to produce the Blair-Rockefeller Poll.

The Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society was established in 2001 by an act of the U.S. Congress and named in honor of political scientist Diane Divers Blair, who taught for 30 years in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. The center studies the American South from a variety of angles to reveal the undercurrents of politics, history and culture that have shaped the region over time. For more information about the Blair Center, visit blaircenter.uark.edu. In addition to directing the Blair Center, Shields is dean of the Graduate School and International Education at the University of Arkansas.

The University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in 2005 with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. Based on the legacy and ideas of former Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center offers workshops, seminars, public lectures, conferences and special events. Program areas include agriculture and environment, arts and humanities, economic development, and policy and public affairs. For more information about the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, visit LiveTheLegacy.org.

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