Race is arguably the most profound and enduring cleavage in American society and politics. This book examines the sources and dynamics of the race cleavage in American society through a detailed analysis of intergroup and intragroup differences at the level of mass opinion. The ethclass theory, which examines the intersection of ethnicity and class, is used to analyze interracial differences in mass attitudes. This analysis yields three clusters of opinion that distinguish African Americans from whites — religiosity, interpersonal alienation, and political liberalism. The authors then examine the intragroup sources of these opinion differences among blacks in terms of class, gender, age, region, and religion. While the authors demonstrate an embryonic trend of more black middle class opinion agreement with whites, the book confirms the ethclass character of the black experience whereby race and race consciousness are still more significant than class in shaping black attitudes.
Given the growing class bifurcation in black America and the continuing debate about its significance in shaping black attitudes and behavior, this book offers a refreshing new analysis of the homogeneity as well as heterogeneity of black mass public opinion.
Robert C. Smith is Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. Richard Seltzer is Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University.
"Smith and Seltzer have written a groundbreaking study of race, class, and political culture in the United States. ..This book is required reading for those interested in Afro-American culture. " — Political Science Quarterly
"With Race, Class, and Culture, Robert C. Smith and Richard Seltzer make a significant contribution to the debate over the importance of race and class in determining the attitudes and behavior of blacks. They use survey data from the 1980s to lay to rest the notion that as blacks enter the middle class, they become more conservative. In addition, they provide a wealth of information on the nature of current black opinion. " — American Political Science Review
"This is the very best analysis to date of the level of homogeneity and heterogeneity in black public opinion. Among academics, sociologists are as likely as political scientists to find the book useful. It will also be of interest to journalists and politicians' staffpersons. In short, I expect the book to have a wide and diverse audience, and it has the potential to become a classic in the public opinion field. " — Linda Faye Williams, Harvard University