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ET Talk: Jasmine Carrera Smith (George Washington University) - Electability Politics: How and Why Black Americans Vote in Primary Elections

jasmine carrera smith

BIOGRAPHY: Jasmine Carrera Smith (PhD, Duke, 2022) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. She studies American Politics with a focus on Race, Ethnicity and Politics. Her work examines how Black American racial identity shapes political attitudes and behavior and interacts with political institutions. Her book project, “Electability Politics: How and Why Black Democrats Vote in Primary Elections” asks: How do Black Americans make vote choice decisions in primary elections? Smith answers this question by stating that Black Americans are highly strategic voters and vote for the candidate that is perceived to be the most electable. Through a series of observational and experimental tests, she shows that Black voters rely on considerations about electability to guide vote choice in primary elections. Smith’s published work has appeared in Politics, Groups, and Identities, and is funded by the National Science Foundation and American Political Science Association.

Abstract: This project investigates Black voting behavior within primary elections, as extant literature that focuses on the partisan, racial, and sometimes policy considerations that guide Black voting behavior omits an understanding of how Black Americans navigate this important step in the electoral process. In this project I suggest that Black Americans are highly strategic voters by 1) foregoing their preference for descriptive and substantive representation, and 2) voting for the candidate most likely to win the general election. Through two survey experimental tests, I show how Black voters use these two strategic decision-making strategies to guide vote choice in primary elections. This project has implications for understanding the preferences and vote choice considerations Black Americans make in electoral contests, and for understanding the strategies candidates must employ to win the Black voting bloc.