Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • David C. Wilson (a1), Michael Leo Owens (a2) and Darren W. Davis (a3)

This research examines the extent to which negative attitudes toward African Americans influence public reactions to restoring political rights to felons. We argue that race-neutral policies, such as felon disenfranchisement laws, are non-separable from racial considerations, as images of criminals and felons are typically associated with Blacks. Such attitudes produce collateral consequences for felons, hampering the restoration of their full political rights and, ultimately, their citizenship. Predispositions, such as racial attitudes and political ideology, provide both racial and nonracial justifications for supporting these laws, yet, there are no empirical accounts of their relational effects on opinion toward felons’ rights. Using nationally representative survey data, we find that racialized resentment and ideology exert the most influence on the reactions to policies seeking political rights for felons as well as beliefs about the value of doing so. Consistent with much of the literature on attitudes toward ameliorative racial policies, higher levels of racial resentment strongly predict lower support for felons’ political rights among both conservatives and liberals, yet, racial resentment is most influential among liberals. Conservatives exhibit the highest levels of racial resentment, but its impact is depressed more by agreement on both racial attitudes and opposition to political rights of felons.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: David C. Wilson, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware, 347 Smith Hall, Newark, Delaware 19716. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Angela Behrens , Christopher Uggen , and Jeff Manza (2003). Ballot Manipulation and the ‘Menace of Negro Domination’: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002. American Journal of Sociology, 109: 559605.

Lawrence Bobo and Devon Johnson (2004). A Taste for Punishment: Black and White Americans’ Views on the Death Penalty and the War on Drugs. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 1: 151180.

Melanie Bowers and Robert Preuhs (2009). Collateral Consequences of a Collateral Penalty: The Negative Effect of Felon Disenfranchisement Laws on the Political Participation of Non-Felons. Social Science Quarterly, 90: 722743.

John M. Darley and Thane S. Pittman (2003). The Psychology of Compensatory and Retributive Justice. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7: 324336.

C Dawson-Edwards . (2008). Enfranchising Convicted Felons: Current Research on Opinions Towards Felon Voting Rights. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 46(34): 1330.

Mandeep K. Dhami and Paula A. Cruise (2013). Prisoner Disenfranchisement: Prisoner and Public Views of an Invisible Punishment. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13: 211227.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt , Phillip Atiba Goff , Valerie J. Purdie , and Paul G. Davies (2004). Seeing Black: Race, Crime, and Visual Processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87: 876893.

Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki (2001). The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Norman T Feather . (2006). Deservingness and Emotions: Applying the Structural Model of Deservingness to the Analysis of Affective Reactions to Outcomes. European Review of Social Psychology, 17: 3870.

Norman T Feather . (2008). Perceived Legitimacy of a Promotion Decision in Relation to Deservingness, Entitlement, and Resentment in the Context of Affirmative Action and Performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38: 12301254.

Norman T. Feather and Rebecca Sherman (2002). Envy, Resentment, Schadenfreude, and Sympathy: Reactions to Deserved and Undeserved Achievement and Subsequent Failure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28: 953961.

Stanley Feldman and Leonie Huddy (2005). Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principles or Prejudice? American Journal of Political Science, 49(1): 168183.

Martin Gilens (1999). Why Americans Hate Welfare Policy: Race, Media, and the Politics of Anti-Poverty Policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Martin Gilens , Paul M. Sniderman , and James K. Kuklinski (1998). Affirmative Action and the Politics of Realignment. British Journal of Political Science, 28: 159183.

Frank D. Gilliam and Shanto Iyengar (2000). Prime Suspects: The Influence of Local Television News on the Viewing Public. American Journal of Political Science, 44: 560573.

Jon Hurwitz and Mark A. Peffley (1997). Public Perceptions of Race and Crime: The Role of Racial Stereotypes. American Journal of Political Science, 41: 375401.

Jon Hurwitz and Mark A. Peffley (2005). Explaining the Great Racial Divide: Perceptions of Fairness in the U.S. Criminal Justice System. Journal of Politics, 67: 762783.

Devon Johnson (2008). Racial Prejudice, Perceived Injustice, and the Black-White Gap in Punitive Attitudes. Journal of Criminal Justice, 36: 198206.

Devon Johnson (2009). Anger about Crime and Support for Punitive Criminal Justice Policies. Punishment & Society, 11: 5166.

Ryan King and Darren Wheelock (2007). Group Threat and Social Control: Race, Perceptions of Minorities and the Desire to Punish. Social Forces, 85: 12551280.

Maria Krysan (1998). Privacy and the Expression of White Racial Attitudes: A Comparison Across Three Contexts. Public Opinion Quarterly, 62: 506544.

George Lakoff (2002). Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Michael Manville (2012). People, Race and Place: American Support for Person- and Place-based Urban Policy, 1973–2008. Urban Studies, 49: 31013119.

Jeff Manza , Clem Brooks , and Christopher Uggen (2004). Public Attitudes Towards Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States. Public Opinion Quarterly, 68: 275286.

Michael Leo Owens and Adrienne R. Smith (2012). “Deviants” and Democracy: Punitive Policy Designs and the Social Rights of Felons. American Politics Research, 40: 531567.

Devah Pager (2007). Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Mark A. Peffley , and Jon Hurwitz (2002). The Racial Components of ‘Race-Neutral’ Crime Policy Attitudes. Political Psychology, 23: 5975.

Mark A. Peffley and Jon Hurwitz (2010). Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mark A. Peffley , Jon Hurwitz , and Paul M. Sniderman (1997). Racial Stereotypes and Whites’ Political Views of Blacks in the Context of Welfare and Crime. American Journal of Political Science, 41: 3060.

Dina R. Rose and Todd R. Clear (2004). Who Doesn’t Know Someone in Jail? The Impact of Exposure to Prison on Attitudes Toward Formal and Informal Controls. The Prison Journal, 84: 228247.

Michael A. Tessler and David O. Sears (2010). Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza (2002). Democratic Contraction? The Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States. American Sociological Review, 67: 777803.

Kelly Welch (2007). Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 23: 276288.

David C. Wilson and Darren W. Davis (2011). Reexamining Racial Resentment: Conceptualization and Content. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 634: 117133.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 109 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 780 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.