Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

James C. Garand


Using the Black National Election Study series (1984, 1988, and 1996), I estimate black support for affirmative action. I develop models that capture the effects of self-interest (as reflected in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and perceptions of both racial threat and racial fairness) and symbolic politics attitudes (the core values of egalitarianism and individualism, political ideology, partisanship, and group consciousness). The method of choice is Ordinary Least Squares Estimation. An examination of the data shows that what drives black attitudes toward affirmative action are largely symbolic politics attitudes, not the effects of self-interest. Generally speaking, the theory of symbolic politics attitudes has a stronger impact on black attitudes toward affirmative action, particularly when compared with the selfinterest theory. That is, I discover that core values, political partisanship, and group consciousness do well at explaining black preferences regarding affirmative action. Blacks mainly support affirmative action because it is in line with their egalitarian inclinations, partisanship, and feelings of black group consciousness. Although traditional measures of self-interest are less relevant, the racial threat and racial fairness components of self-interest do matter. Several variables used to capture the effects of racial threat and racial fairness are related to support for or opposition to affirmative action among black Americans. It appears that certain effects of self-interest do matter in that blacks support affirmative action largely because they view it as a means of overcoming racial discrimination and as a countermeasure to white threat.