Racial Resentment and the Restoration of Voting Rights for Felons
39 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2011 Last revised: 2 Sep 2011
Date Written: August 2, 2011
The conference chairs call for papers examining “The Politics of Rights,” including how “rights are defined, contested, contracted or expanded, enshrined into law, and rolled back.” In keeping with this theme we propose to present a paper that investigates how racial resentments influence public attitudes towards the restoration of rights to felons. We analyzed the extent to which racial resentment, and beliefs about sociotropic consequences of actions to restore voting rights, shape opinions and beliefs about the restoration of the franchise to felons. We posit that racial stereotypes are instinctively tied to perceptions of who is more likely to be a felon in the United States, and thus individuals use their racial beliefs to make decisions about the deservingness of voting rights for all felons. We proposed to many in the public employ the egalitarian belief that no one should receive special considerations (e.g., voting rights) if they have been convicted. In this way the denial of voting rights to felons appears justified on a moral basis despite being founded on racial schema. Thus, racial resentments toward African Americans should predict support for the restoration of voting rights for felons, as well as beliefs about whether such restoration is good or bad for society. Our data come from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (N=1,000), which includes a newly developed “explicit racial resentment” scale. The results show that racial resentment is a significant predictor of opposition to Congressional action to restore voting rights, even among those who agree that restoring the franchise would better society.
Keywords: Disenfranchisement, Voting Rights, Racial Resentment, Public Opinion, Race and Politics
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