Bernard L. Fraga Associate Professor of Political Science

Headshot of Bernard L. Fraga 1x1  @blfraga

Areas of Expertise

  • Presidential and Congressional elections
  • Racial and ethnic politics
  • Voter turnout and voter mobilization
  • Election laws and voting rights


Bernard L. Fraga, PhD, associate professor of political science, specializes in the impact of race and ethnicity in American elections, with a particular focus on minority voter turnout and officeseeking. Fraga’s award-winning book, The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and Political Inequality in a Diversifying America (2018), provides a comprehensive analysis of race and voter turnout, examining White, Black, Latinx, and Asian American turnout and voting patterns from the 1800s to the present. He frequently provides commentary on elections to media outlets, and has served as an expert witness and consultant in litigation dealing with elections and voting rights.


Decision 2020: Emory experts react to 2020 election results (Nov. 6, 2020)

Georgia as a model for the nation 

Long considered reliably red, Georgia emerged as a surprise swing state in 2020, with one of the closest vote tallies in the country. 

But although the overall numbers show the state’s voters almost evenly divided between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, there is a stark difference when votes are analyzed based on race, notes Bernard Fraga, associate professor of political science.

The state’s white voters overwhelmingly voted Republican, while exit polls show almost 9 out of 10 of Georgia’s African American voters supported the Democratic ticket. 

This racial partisan divide means that, in many areas outside of metro Atlanta, political polarization can be “literally visible” in interpersonal interactions, Fraga says — but this also represents a “tremendous opportunity.”

“If we in Georgia can learn how to work with each other despite those divisions,” he says, “then maybe there is hope for the rest of the country as well.”

Link to full story:

Media Briefing: Post-Election Analysis (Nov. 4, 2020)

Video briefing providing an analysis of voter participation data by race and gender and how successful campaigns were in mobilizing youth and minority voters. Link to video:

Decision 2020: EMORY ELECTION EXPERTS ON KEY ISSUES (October 2020)

Voter Turnout

Call it the Turnout Gap — the tendency for election turnout among Black, Latinx and Asian American voters in the U.S. to lag behind their white counterparts.

Campaign strategies can play a critical role in targeting and mobilizing voters, influencing who votes and who stays at home, says Bernard Fraga. But this isn’t a business-as-usual year, and he sees Democrats working hard to shift that historic voting gap, especially in Southern and Southwestern states where minority voters “could play a key role in a path to victory.”

In this election, for the first time, Latinx voters will comprise the nation’s largest non-white voting bloc, which highlights their growing political influence in American politics, he says. 

And that means strategies to target this group — especially for registration drives and campaign messaging — could have an impact, particularly in states like Texas and Arizona.

A global pandemic has likely made it harder for both parties to make inroads with voters in minority communities, according to Fraga. And recent polling indicates ethnic minority voters are less likely to trust vote-by-mail options, preferring to vote early and in person, he says. Whether or not campaigns can counter their concerns remains to be seen, he adds.

Studies show that voters turn out at higher rates when they perceive that their votes really matter, Fraga notes. But while the nation’s ongoing protests for racial equity and social justice have undoubtedly changed American public opinion, he doesn’t anticipate they will sharply influence election outcomes — most voters have simply already made up their minds.

The 2018 midterm elections ushered in the nation’s most diverse electoral field to ever run, and Fraga sees that trend continuing this year — even in districts where historically candidates might not have stood a chance of winning.

“Beyond the presidential election, in the U.S. House and even state legislatures we’re seeing a tremendous growth in non-white or minority candidates running in districts where those groups don’t make up a majority of that population,” he says. “Candidates now feel they can win in places that in the past they were told it would be impossible.”

Link to full story:

First Presidential Debate (Sept. 29, 2020)

The first presidential debate was a disaster for the relatively small set of Americans who are still making up their minds about who to vote for. Trump treated the debate like a campaign rally, firing up his base with discredited conspiracy theories related to both Biden and the security of mail-in voting. Biden attacked the Trump administration’s record on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, but only had a few moments where his alternative vision of governance could be made clear to swing voters. 

Media Briefing: Election 2020 and the Pandemic (Sept. 17, 2020)

Video briefing discussing the latest developments in the 2020 election including: 

  • Current trends in voting behavior along racial, gender and religious lines
  • The state of the campaigns in mobilizing youth and minority voters
  • The potential impact of increased voting by mail in 2020
  • The increase in the number of minority candidates in House and Senate races

Link to video:

Recent Media Coverage