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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

Racial Attitudes and its Influence on the Restoration of Felons’ Voting Rights

Janaya Godfrey

Senior, Criminal Justice

Abstract

This project serves to answer the following research questions: What drives attitudes toward the restoration of felon voting rights? To what extent does racial resentment influence these attitudes? What other factors influence these attitudes? There has been a lot of scholarly activity looking at support for attitudes towards the restoration of felons’ voting rights. Research shows that racial stereotypes, racial resentment, and social contact to felons and Blacks (contact theory) offer explanation for why others support or oppose the restoration of felons’ voting rights. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the relative strength of each of these different schools of thought. We find that stereotypes and contact theory match those of prior research, but cannot confirm past research on resentment with this sample.

Project Background 

As part of the McNair scholars program, I wanted to focus on a project that reflected my interests. As a criminal justice major, one topic that comes up often in my courses is the racial disparities within the prison system and how overrepresentation in the prisons continue to impact the African American community even after incarceration. The racial disparities within the prison population are often the result of racial inequalities taking place at every stage of the criminal justice system. As an African American woman, it’s very concerning to see these disparities and the unjustified consequences it brings to the African American community. Rather than focusing on what factors contribute to racial disparities in the prison system, I wanted to focus on the consequences after incarceration. With the help of my faculty mentor, James Krueger, we examined how incarceration limits and reduces political power to the African American community by limiting felons’ voting rights. We wanted to know why there was little change in legislation towards felons’ voting rights, despite the overall support for restoring felons’ voting rights, and what could be influential factors contributing to this lack of movement in legislation.

What Do You Think? 

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2 Comments

  1. David M. Jones

    Out of curiosity, did you measure the degree to which the interdependent variables were interrelated? My guess is that they are

    Reply
  2. Don Dingledine

    Excellent work, Janaya. Thank you for sharing it with us. I admire you for undertaking such an important project, the real-world impact of which is significant. I hope you have the opportunity to continue this work in the future.

    Reply

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