Racial Framing and Public Support for Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement

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Rose, Deondra

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It is well documented that framing certain race-neutral policies, such as the death penalty, voter ID laws, and three-strikes laws, in terms of race can increase whites’ support for those laws. This study utilized a survey-based experiment to explore the impact of racial framing on voters’ support for repealing ex-felon disenfranchisement statutes. White respondents who were told that felon disenfranchisement disproportionately affects blacks were less supportive of restoring felons’ voting rights than were those given no racial frame. This impact was concentrated among white Republicans, and the racial frame had a minimal impact on white Democrats’ responses to the question. The survey also asked respondents for their opinions about restoring both felons’ voting rights and firearm rights. The difference between the control and experimental groups’ responses to this question was greater than the difference between the two groups’ responses to the question about voting rights alone. Republicans and Democrats responded similarly, with both expressing lesser support for restoring felons’ voting and gun rights when the issue was racially framed. Racial threat theory and negative attitudes about blacks help explain why whites became less supportive of ex-felon rights restoration when told that the issue disproportionately affects blacks. The survey also polled blacks, but the frame had a minimal impact on their opinions.


Ole R. Holsti Prize winner




Pelle, Michael (2016). Racial Framing and Public Support for Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement. Course paper, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12998.

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