Restoring Rights, Restoring Trust: Evidence that Reversing Felon Disenfranchisement Penalties Increases Both Trust and Cooperation with Government
36 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2018 Last revised: 27 Feb 2019
Date Written: October 25, 2018
Felon disenfranchisement laws restrict the voting rights of more than 6 million US Citizens. Beyond the effects on voter turnout and electoral outcomes, how do these laws affect individual-level attitudes and behaviors? This study implements two field experiments embedded within panel surveys conducted before and after statewide elections in Ohio and Virginia. The survey population is composed of US citizens with felony convictions who were once disenfranchised, but are now either eligible to vote, or to have their voting rights restored. Experimental treatments provide varying assistance with the restoration of voting rights and voter registration. Treated subjects report stronger trust in government and the criminal justice system, and an increased willingness to cooperate with law enforcement. The results suggest that reversing disenfranchisement causes newly enfranchised citizens to increase their pro-democratic attitudes and behaviors - all of which are predictors of reduced crime and recidivism.
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