Date of Award

Spring 4-16-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Sean Richey

Second Advisor

Dr. Lakeyta Bonnette

Third Advisor

Dr. Sarah Gershon

Abstract

My dissertation seeks to answer two important questions in African American politics: What accounts for the new electoral success of African American candidates in non-minority majority districts, and is there some sort of specific rhetoric used in the campaign speeches of these African American politicians? I seek to show that rhetoric matters and that there is a consistent post-racial language found in the speeches of successful African American elected officials. In experimental studies, I show that that this post-racial language is effective in shaping perceptions of these politicians and is a contributing factor to their success. In addition, I show that the language found in the speeches of successful African American elected officials is not found in the speeches of unsuccessful African American politicians running for a similar office. I engage in this research by conducting experiments using campaign speeches from 2010 primary and general election candidates, conducting quantitative text analysis, and performing ethnographical interviewing with successful African American elected officials.

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