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  • 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:


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