Racial Resentment and the Restoration of Voting Rights for Felons

39 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2011 Last revised: 2 Sep 2011

See all articles by David C. Wilson

David C. Wilson

University of Delaware - Political Science & International Relations

Michael Leo Owens

Emory University

Darren Davis

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science

Date Written: August 2, 2011

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Wilson, David C. and Owens, Michael Leo and Davis, Darren, Racial Resentment and the Restoration of Voting Rights for Felons (August 2, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1904089 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1904089

David C. Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Delaware - Political Science & International Relations ( email )

United States

Michael Leo Owens

Emory University ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Darren Davis

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science ( email )

217 O'Shaughnessy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

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