Candis Watts Smith

Associate Professor of Political Science, Duke University

About Candis

Smith tends to ask research questions that blur disciplinary lines; many of the questions she poses can only be answered by considering bodies of literature, theoretical frameworks, and methodological strategies found in Sociology, Political Science, Psychology and Public Policy. Her research interests focus on American political behavior and racial and ethnic Politics. Here, she focuses on individuals’ and groups’ policy preferences, particularly around social policies that exacerbate or ameliorate disparities and inequality between groups. Smith also has courtesy appointments in the Department of African, African American & Diaspora Studies and Department of Political Science.


In the News

Opinion: "Your Most Important Assignment: Vote!," Candis Watts Smith (with Christopher Witko), Onward State, September 25, 2020.
Opinion: "A Great Awokening? It Still Takes Video for Black People to Be Believed | Opinion," Candis Watts Smith, Newsweek, July 14, 2020.
Quoted by Perry Bacon Jr and Meredith Conroy in "Black Americans Are Very Connected To Being Black," Five Thirty Eight, June 10, 2020.
Quoted by Janell Ross and Dartunorro Clark in "Black Voters Know What They Want. On Tuesday, It was Joe Biden. Here's Why," NBC News, March 5, 2020.
Research discussed by Sydney Worth, in "The Language of Antiracism," Yes! Magazine, February 19, 2020.
Quoted by Mario Parker in "Trump’s Plea to Black Voters Shows Find-A-Few Strategy," Bloomberg, February 6, 2020.
Opinion: "Three Myths about Racism," Candis Watts Smith, TEDxPSU, February 2020.
Quoted by Thomas Edsall in "No One Should Take Black Voters for Granted," The New York Times, September 11, 2019.
Quoted by Thomas Edsall in "We Aren’t Seeing White Support for Trump for What It Is," The New York Times, August 28, 2018.
Quoted by Eugene Scott in "Despite White House Denial, Some Find Trump’s Comments about Black Immigrants Believable," Washington Post, December 23, 2017.
Opinion: "Black Immigrants in the US Face Big Challenges: Washington Post's Monkey Cage Blog," Candis Watts Smith, Washington Post, September 18, 2017.
Opinion: "‘Contraception Deserts’ are What You Get When You Cut off this little-known federal Program," Candis Watts Smith (with Rebecca Kreitzer), Washington Post, September 26, 2016.
Guest on Black Issues Forum on UNC TV, July 3, 2016.
Opinion: "Immigration, Ethnicity, & Black Political Futures," Candis Watts Smith, The Black Scholar, April 14, 2016.
Guest on New Books in Political Science Podcast, November 18, 2014.


"Affordable but Inaccessible? Contraception Deserts in the US States" (with Rebecca Kreitzer, Kellen A. Kane, and Tracee M. Saunders). Journal Health Political Policy Law 46, no. 2 (2021): 277–304.

Focuses on whether, and the extent to which, the resources made available by Title X—the only federal policy aimed specifically at reproductive health care—are equitably accessible. 

"Racial Stasis: The Milliennial Generation and the Stagnation of Racial Attitudes in American Politics" (with Candis Watts Smith) (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Notes the hope that the younger generation, which many believe manifests less racism and more acceptance of a multiracial society, may not be happening. Argues that this is because millennials, a generational cohort far removed from Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, lack sufficient understanding of the structural nature of racial inequalities in the United States and therefore also the contextual and historical knowledge to be actively anti-racist. 

"The Dynamics of Racial Resentment Across the 50 US States" (with Rebecca Kreitzer and Feiya Suo). Perspectives: The Dynamics 18, no. 2 (2019).

Studies the role of racial animus in Americans’ political attitudes and policy preferences do so to help us understand national-level politics, and (racialized) policy is largely shaped at the state level.

"Stay Woke: A People's Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter" (with Tehama Lopez Bunyasi) (NYU Press, September 2019).

Addresses stark injustices and builds on the lessons of racial inequality and intersectionality the Black Lives Matter movement has challenged its fellow citizens to learn. Provides a basic toolkit to readers to become knowledgeable participants in public debate, activism, and politics.

"Variation in Title X Leads to Contraception Deserts," (with Tracee Saunders and Rebecca J. Kreitzer), The Gender Policy Report, August 14, 2018.

Notes the politics of abortion and the politics of contraception are converging. Finds growth of contraception deserts, or geographic areas with inequitable access to affordable family planning due to states’ broad discretion in Title X implementation.

"The New Principle-Policy Gap: How Diversity Ideology Subverts Diversity Initiatives" (with Sarah Mayorga-Gallo). Sociological Perspectives 60, no. 5 (2017): 889-911.

Argues that even though we see a greater appreciation for the presence of nonwhite bodies in various spaces, we are not likely to see real systemic change in the American racial hierarchy because of a reliance on diversity ideology. Through an analysis of semistructured interviews with 43 white Millennials, this article outlines the ways in which diversity ideology’s four tenets—diversity as acceptance, commodity, intent, and liability—help whites maintain power in multiracial spaces.

"Straddling Identities: Identity Cross-Pressures on Black Immigrants’ Policy Preferences" (with Jurée Capers). Politics, Groups and Identities 4, no. 3 (2016): 393-424.

Suggests that it is becoming increasingly important to examine the centrality of other identities in Black political behavior as the ethnic diversity among Blacks increases with large influxes of African, Afro-Latino, and Afro-Caribbean immigrants.

"Black Mosaic: The Politics of Pan-Ethnic Diversity" (New York University Press, 2014).

Explores the effects of dynamic demographic change on Black politics. 

"Ethnicity and the Role of Group Consciousness: A Comparison between African Americans and Black Immigrants" Politics, Groups, and Identities 1, no. 2 (2013): 199-220.

Examines the role of context on the mobilization of politicized racial group consciousness among African Americans and Black immigrants.

"Intergroup Relations in Three Southern Cities" (with Paula D. McClain, Gerald F. Lackey, Efren O. Perez, Niambi M. Carter, Jessica Johnson Carew, Eugene Walton Jr., Monique L. Lyle, and Shayla C. Nunnally), in Just Neighbors?: Reason on African American and Latino Relations in the United States, edited by Edward Telles, Mark Sawyer, and Gaspar Rivera-Salgado (Russel Sage Foundation, 2011).

Provides a glimpse at the context in which racial intergroup relations will be developed in three southern locations that represent three distinct southern environments: majority black (Memphis, Tennessee), more or less equal black and white populations (Durham, North Carolina), and minority black (Little Rock, Arkansas).