Title page for ETD etd-04202010-231414

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wilkinson, Betina Cutaia
Author's Email Address bcutai1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-04202010-231414
Title Commonality, Competition, and Stereotypes: Can Whites, Blacks and Latinos Play Politics Together in the United States?
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Garand, James C. Committee Chair
Chen, Xi Committee Member
Dunaway, Johanna L. Committee Member
Goidel, Robert Kirby Committee Member
Hogan, Robert E. Committee Member
Long, Alecia P. Dean's Representative
  • ols regression
  • ordered logit
Date of Defense 2010-04-12
Availability unrestricted
The literature on racial attitudes and coalition formation has focused on Latinos and

African Americans in the U.S. In this project, I present a theoretical framework exploring

what whites, blacks and Latinos think of each other specifically examining perceptions of

commonality, competition and stereotypes. The two major theories that I test are contact

theory and the racial threat hypothesis.

This project is unique in its comprehensive analysis of the precursors of coalition

formation regarding African Americans, Latinos and whites and its adoption of quantitative

and qualitative approaches to answer the main research questions. Moreover, very little

research has explored the effects of contact and context on perceptions of commonality,

competition and stereotypes among these three groups. The analysis includes five parts:

exploring Latinos’ perceptions of commonality and competition with blacks and whites

using national survey data; examining Latinos’ attitudes toward blacks and whites using focus

groups in New Orleans, Louisiana; examining African Americans’ perceptions of closeness,

competition and stereotypes of Latinos and whites using national survey data and focus

groups; exploring whites’ perceptions of closeness, competition and stereotypes of Latinos

and African Americans using national survey data; and examining whites’ attitudes toward

Latinos and African Americans using focus groups in New Orleans.

I find strong support for contact theory in explaining Latinos’, whites’ and blacks’

commonality with the other racial groups; yet I find that the racial threat hypothesis does a

very good job in explaining Latinos’ competition with blacks. Nevertheless, I conclude that

some Latinos, blacks and whites may not think in terms of race when considering what they

have in common with other racial or ethnic groups. In addition, skin color significantly

shapes Latinos’ attitudes toward blacks and whites. Dark-skinned Latinos have a greater

predisposition to perceive commonality with blacks than light-skinned Latinos and light-skinned Latinos are more likely to perceive commonality with whites than Latinos with

darker complexions. Regarding the implications of these results for the formation of future

political coalitions, I suspect that Latinos and whites are more likely to form political

coalitions than African Americans and Latinos.

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