Year of publication
Does the decision to vote signify that African Americans are “fired up” (i.e., that they are excited about the election), or is it a function of Blacks’ long-term commitment to activism (i.e., that their sense of social responsibility keeps them “ready to go” to the polls)? We argue that campaign enthusiasm and civic duty can work together, exerting an interactive influence in some contexts, and moving independently in others. Using survey data from the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Studies, we discover that both enthusiasm or civic duty matter in the sense that high levels of civic duty can substitute for a lack of enthusiasm, and that high levels of enthusiasm can substitute for the lack of a sense of civic duty. This pattern of enthusiasm and civic duty being “mutually-attenuating” conditions of Black turnout is clearest in 2016: the stronger the effect of one variable, the weaker the impact of the other, and this conditional effect is exists regardless of age. Our findings join the ongoing and spirited conversation about racial politics in the United States, and they contribute to the study of campaign enthusiasm and civic duty, two of the strongest and most reliable motivators of political behavior.