We Played the Race Card for 35 Years: Presidential Contests and Fear of Crime

Dennis Loo, California Polytechnic State University
Ruth-Ellen M. Grimes, California Polytechnic State University

ABSTRACT
Conventional wisdom holds that 1960s' riots stoked crime concerns among white Americans. These crime concerns, in turn, are believed to have played a pivotal role in helping Richard Nixon defeat Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential race. Systematic review of riot incidence and polling data indicate, however, that the presumed linkage between crime concerns and riots was endorsed by very few among those polled. Rather, this linkage of riots to crime was a social construct. This paper tracks the role of polling organizations, "law and order" candidates, and media outlets in the creation of this social construct.

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Updated 05/20/2006