The Department of Government
The Department of Government

American Politics Speaker Series-Allison Anoll (Vanderbilt Univ)

Finding Purpose in the Past: Racial Group Norms and Political Participation in the United States

Wed, October 16, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM


Abstract: A growing literature testifies to the importance of social pressure for shaping political participation, but what are the underlying norms that prescribe involvement in politics? Using a grounded-theory approach that involves interviews and original large-N survey data, I find that the honoring ancestors norm, defined as the social expectation to recognize and respect the legacy of those in the past, is a potent norm in the United States that varies systematically in its connection to politics across racial groups. Furthermore, a political interpretation of the honoring ancestors norm predicts validated voter turnout at rates outpacing recruitment, education, and efficacy, and priming the norm experimentally increases the perceived value of participation, but only for those groups who see the norm as requiring political involvement. The results suggest that different groups tie norms to politics in ways that reflect unique historical narratives and concepts of group membership, ultimately affecting who engages in the political sphere.

Bio: Allison Anoll earned her PhD from Stanford University in 2016. Her research focuses on American political behavior. Specifically, Allison studies how social context, connections, and norms affect political participation, especially among racial and ethnic minorities.  Allison’s current book project explores how social norms and racial segregation shape the contours of American political participation. Her dissertation on this topic won two Best Dissertation Awards in 2017. Additional work considers how social connections to the carceral state, including having close connections with convicted felons or those regularly stopped by the police, shape political attitudes and participation. Allison has taught at prisons and rehabilitation centers across the United States and teaches courses on American politics, police and prisons, race, and political participation at Vanderbilt.


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