University of Delaware study: racial images shape opinion on voter ID laws

Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

NAACP Poster 1970 to 1979 (image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress)

The University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication has released analysis of a newly-published national study of race and voter ID laws.  The news release about the study stated:

The study reveals that seeing a photograph of an African American voter and poll worker affected how white respondents answered a survey question about voter ID laws. White survey respondents who saw this image expressed stronger support for voter ID laws than those who saw no image. Seeing an image of a white voter and poll worker did not affect white respondents’ support. Research faculty David C. Wilson and Paul Brewer supervised the study.

“Our findings suggest that public opinion about voter ID laws can be racialized by simply presenting an image of African Americans voting” said Wilson. “The resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of political ideology and racial attitudes.”

Voter ID laws require individuals to show government issued identification before voting. Controversy surrounds the role of these laws in next month’s elections for Congress and state offices. A number of states have passed voter ID laws in the name of preventing voting fraud. Polls consistently show that a large majority of Americans favor the laws.

Some opponents of voter ID laws say they are designed to prevent African-Americans, students and low-income voters from casting ballots. The United States Supreme Court recently blocked Wisconsin from implementing its voter ID law, less than a month before the November 4 elections. A federal appeals court also struck down a Texas voter ID law, ruling that the law discriminated against African American and Hispanic voters.

The University of Delaware study shows white voters were somewhat more likely to favor voter ID laws when they were shown an image of black voters and poll workers, compared to white voters who saw no image.

Download the study here.

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